Strike Looms as Workers at Québec Aluminium Smelter Consider New Labor Deal

Strike Looms as Workers at Québec Aluminium Smelter Consider New Labor Deal
Bécancour, Québec. Source: Wikimedia

Workers at a plant jointly owned by Alcoa and Rio Tinto in Québec are in the process of deciding whether to accept a new contract to replace the agreement that expired yesterday or go on strike and return to the negotiating table.

Members of the United Steelworkers union at the 450-thousand-metric-tons-per-annum Aluminerie de Bécancour Inc. (ABI) aluminium smelter are at the end of a five-year labor agreement as well as the ninety-day negotiation period prior to the agreement’s expiration. According to the union, they have the right to strike and the plant has the right to lock workers out if no agreement can be hammered out by midnight on Wednesday.

Negotiators for ABI offered their draft of a new agreement to USW negotiators on November 16 after discussions between the parties began in September. However, a USW official who spoke to the media believes that the contract will not be accepted, and that the plant has experienced minor slowdowns in the past several days. The slow-downs were not severe enough to affect production, he said, and workers reported to the job as per usual on Tuesday.

Alcoa’s Jim Beck said on Tuesday that management “submitted an offer that includes significant wage increases for ABI’s employees with modest work rule changes. We believe the offer, which includes a competitive benefit package, will position the facility to compete across all market cycles.”

“As the expiration of the contract approaches, we have taken steps to ensure safe and efficient operations, and our customers have the support of Alcoa’s global network of casthouses,” he concluded.

As for labor, USW distributed a memo earlier this month objecting to a proposed two-tiered pension plan and certain provisions for workers’ movement between and among positions in the plant. No other specific objections to the current proposed agreement were available at the time of this writing.