After several months of struggle and a three-month strike, cement workers at LafargeHolcim in Saint-Constant, Canada have won the battle in a conflict with the multinational cement producer.
On Tuesday 10 May, affected workers voted by majority of 84 per cent of in favour of a preliminary agreement concluded between the United Steelworkers Local 6658 and management at Ciment Lafarge, part of the LafargeHolcim group.
Workers will keep their pension plan, which was one of the main triggers for the strike that began on 6 February 2016. The USW opposed management’s plans to axe the defined benefit pension plan and introduce a two-tier system less advantageous for newly employed workers, even though the plant is productive and profitable. Sixty-eight workers have remained without a collective agreement since 30 November 2015.
The full details of the agreement are yet to be revealed, but union representatives said that the company has agreed to maintain the current pension scheme, while the union will withdraw all legal cases against management for violating the Quebec Labour Code by illegally using scab workers during the strike.
"Thanks to the determination of our members and the strong support we received, we were able to conclude this agreement," said Éric Boulanger, president of the Steelworkers’ (Metallos) Local 6658.
Matthias Hartwich, IndustriALL director for mechanical engineering and materials industries, was asked to organize a direct line of communication between locals union and corporate management. Hartwich said:
“IndustriALL was informed by our brothers about the strike and immediately got in touch with global management at LafargeHolcim. The use of scabs is not in line with company policy. We extend our gratitude to the global management for their quick reaction, and we salute the determination and strength of our Canadian brothers and sisters whose courage won this battle. We are glad that we were able to assist in paving the way for a new dialogue.”
UPDATE: According to the USW press-release the new agreement provides for wage increases totalling 13.75 per cent over the contract’s term, as well as benefits improvements. Modifications to the defined benefit pension plan will include an employee premium contribution equal to 3 per cent of hourly wages. Full text of the release is available on the link http://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/articles/2016/victory-steelworkers-win-pension-battle-at-ciment-lafarge.