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Quebec Steelworkers confront Alcoa CEO in Florida

February 27, 2018  

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Quebec Steelworkers travelled 2,800 kilometres to Florida to confront Alcoa CEO Roy Harvey for the seven-week lockout of employees at the ABI aluminum smelter.

Locked-out ABI employees from Bécancour, Que., are demonstrating today outside the BMO Global Metals and Mining Conference, where Harvey is addressing investors.

Other locked-out ABI workers are simultaneously demonstrating today outside the Bank of Montreal (BMO) in Trois-Rivières, Que., denouncing the bank’s decision to invite Alcoa’s CEO to speak at its conference, while thousands of Quebec families are affected by Alcoa’s unnecessary lockout at ABI.

The ABI smelter in Bécancour, the second-largest of its kind in North America, is co-owned by Alcoa (75 per cent) and Rio Tinto (25 per cent). The two multinationals locked out employees on January 11.

“The best message that Alcoa’s CEO could deliver to investors is that his company will resume negotiations to resolve the dispute in Bécancour,” said Clément Masse, President of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9700, representing the locked-out ABI employees.

“Since locking out its employees on January 11 – rather than negotiating a new collective agreement – Alcoa’s balance sheet has taken a hit with each passing day,” said Masse. “The costs associated with shutting down two potlines at the smelter and the future restart of operations amount to more than $100 million.

“These losses come at a time when aluminum prices are healthy,” he continued. “Investors should not have to tolerate these kinds of financial decisions that tarnish the company’s balance sheet.”

Alcoa and Rio Tinto opted to lock out ABI employees after the workers voted overwhelmingly to reject the company’s attempt to impose a concessionary contract. The workers advised the company they had no intention of striking and reiterated a commitment to negotiating a resolution on the key issues in the dispute – seniority and pensions.

On February 7, members of all parties in the Quebec government unanimously passed a resolution urging Alcoa and Rio Tinto to resume negotiations, noting the lockout’s significant economic impact. Alcoa and Rio Tinto have yet to agree to the government’s request to resume bargaining.

“We have already offered meaningful compromises on the outstanding issues,” said Masse. “The employer’s response has been to cut off negotiations and try to impose its will on employees, while holding an entire region’s economy hostage.”

(United Steelworkers)