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16-month lockout ends at Ash Grove cement plant

18 October, 2022110 members of Unifor local 177 at Joliet Ash Grove in Quebec, Canada, have started returning to work after more than a 16-month lockout. Workers had been locked out from the plant owned by Irish cement giant CRH since May 2021 after rejecting the employer’s offers.

The majority of Unifor’s members voted in favour of the recommendation of the Ministry of Labour and Employment conciliator. With the new contract, workers will receive a 7.5 per cent wage increase and a further 3.5 per cent  increase in the second year. In the third year, workers will receive an increase equivalent to the consumer price index.

The workers are gradually returning to work, a return that will be spread over a 20-day period.

Through this long-lasting dispute, Unifor members at Joliet Ash Grove received solidarity support and financial assistance from other unions across the country.

“We are very proud of our members and we are extremely grateful for all the support that we received from Unifor locals across Canada and from other unions. This financial support has allowed us to continue the fight to the end,”

says local union president Eric Giasson.

The dispute is significant as it was heard before the Administrative Labour Tribunal following a complaint by Unifor concerning the illegal use of replacement workers (scabs) during lockouts announced by the employer. The union won the case, as the tribunal ruled that the company employed workers who teleworked violated the anti-scab provisions of the Labour Code, even though they were not in the locked-out establishment itself.

The ruling, which extended the scope of the anti-scab provisions to telework, has shaken the labour world. The employer has appealed and the case is yet to be heard.

"We are proud of the determination of our members who stood their ground and never gave up. Thanks to their tenacity, this dispute is being resolved in a favourable way. It is now time to heal the wounds and return to normal life,”

says Daniel Cloutier, Quebec Director of Unifor.

Alexander Ivanou, IndustriALL director of materials industries says:

“IndustriALL congratulates members of Unifor Local 177 for their exemplary strength and resistance which brought them to the end of this extremely long lockout and conclusion of the new contract.”