October 10, 2018
The United Steelworkers (USW) says aluminum giant Alcoa is “not interested in settling a nine-month lockout” of 1,030 employees at its ABI smelter in Bécancour, Que.
Alcoa has demanded more concessions from the locked-out workers even though the ABI smelter has the lowest labour costs per unit production among all of Alcoa’s facilities in North America, the USW states.
The situation prompted former Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard, appointed by the provincial government as a special mediator in the labour dispute, to suspend the mediation process last week.
The locked-out workers, members of USW/Syndicat des Métallos Local 9700, met Tuesday in Trois-Rivières to discuss the breakdown in negotiations as well as their plan to escalate a campaign to increase pressure on Alcoa for a fair settlement.
“Alcoa has demanded new concessions from workers several times during the negotiations. The company is trying to make workers bear the brunt of its bad decision to lock out its employees in the first place,” said Clément Masse, USW Local 9700 President. “The fact is that labour costs per tonne are lower at ABI than at any other Alcoa smelter in North America, including the non-unionized smelter in Deschambault, Que., and the unionized smelter in Baie-Comeau, Que. If any budget item is too high, it’s electricity.”
Labour costs to produce one tonne of aluminium at the ABI smelter are $142.90, less than at any other smelter in North America. In comparison, labour costs per tonne are $145.30 at the Deschambault smelter and $157.60 at the Baie-Comeau smelter.
“Even if we were to slash labour costs in half, it still wouldn’t make up for the electricity costs, which are higher in Bécancour than at the other two Alcoa smelters in Quebec,” Masse said. “ABI is trying to blame its locked-out employees for the consequences of its own inability to negotiate better electrical rates with the Quebec government.”