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Six-month lock-out ends in agreement in Quebec

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6 July, 2012United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9490 members ratify a new collective agreement with Rio Tinto Alcan in Alma Quebec, after being locked out for six months.


IndustriALL hails USW Local 9490 members for standing firm against the multinational conglomerate, and fighting for their futures in Alma, refusing management efforts for retiring employees to be replaced by non-union contract workers earning half the wages and no pensions or benefits. The Alma Steelworkers have campaigned under the message that they will fight “One Day Longer” than the company, travelling to confront the company in Europe, Australia, Africa, and elsewhere, standing firm throughout many stages of negotiations.

The agreement was reached in a new round of intensive talks from 13 June, with mediation from the Ministry of Labour’s Jean Poirier. The new collective agreement for workers at the aluminium smelter will run until the end of 2015. Contracting out will be strictly managed and limited for the duration of the agreement.

"We were forced to take on the third-largest mining company in the world and we won," said USW President Leo Gerard. "Many thought this was impossible, given the power imbalance, but we sent a message to the resource industry throughout the world that workers and their unions can take on huge multinational corporations to stop unjust demands."

The cost of the company lock-out to the region is estimated to have been C$2million per week, including the controversial agreement whereby Hydro-Québec buys back unused electricity from the company while the lockout is on-going.

Rio Tinto angered trade unionists throughout the world with the ruthless social agenda of its subsidiary Rio Tinto Alcan in Central Québec. Over 50 trade unions from around the world have taken action in support of the USW campaign to kick Rio Tinto “Off the Podium”, after the company supplied the metal for medals at the London Olympics.

And over 100 mining trade unions affiliated to IndustriALL targeted Rio Tinto at the World Mining Conference resolved to build a long-term global campaign that was launched last week by IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina.

“We are satisfied that common sense has prevailed in Alma, but Rio Tinto must now extend that common sense throughout its global operations. Rio Tinto have learned in Alma that they cannot unilaterally impose reductions in working conditions and further increase profits on the backs of workers. Our global corporate campaign against Rio Tinto will continue, calling on the company to improve its corporate conduct and become a good global citizen,” stated Raina.

"The USW will continue working with unions around the world to demand that Rio Tinto respect workers' and human rights and the environment," stated Ken Neumann, USW Canadian National Director. "We know there will be new attacks by Rio Tinto on trade unions and communities. The Steelworkers will be there to help them resist Rio Tinto's assaults."

See letters from 60 organisations in 30 countries condemning the decision to link Rio Tinto to the London Olympics here - http://www.industriall-union.org/issues/confronting-global-capital/multinational-companies-mncs/rio-tinto