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Unifor fights against lockout at Ash Grove, Canada

19 November, 2021Having been locked out since May this year, more than a hundred workers are fighting to get their jobs back at Cimenterie Ash Grove, Canada owned by CRH, construction materials multinational of Irish origin.

Towards the end of 2020, 154 members of Unifor Local 177 learnt of the closure of two of the four kilns at the Joliette plant, putting at least half of their jobs at risk.

"It's obviously a shock-wave for workers. It's uncertainty on top of what everyone is already experiencing with the pandemic,"

Renaud Gagné, Unifor Quebec director, said at the time.

Even though the collective bargaining was still ongoing, Unifor members were illegally locked out on 22 May. The legal lockout started on 3 June.

Despite a severe lack of cement with rising market prices and a shortage of labour, Ash Grove refuses to use a recall list of current employees, which would allow workers to access other jobs in the company. Instead, the employer is using labour agencies and subcontractors.

Renaud Gagné says:

“This dispute is a direct attack on the very existence of a union in the company by local management. All we want is an opportunity to have seniority recognized and a right to training for positions that employees have never held.”

Since the start of the lockout, the union has organized a series of actions. On 22 October, Unifor together with Quebec Federation of Labor, held a mobilization in solidarity with the locked-out workers. On 8 October, Unifor members demonstrated at the Port of Trois-Rivières and in July, more than a hundred Unifor members and allies responded to the union's call for solidarity action in front of the Ash Grove cement plant in Joliette.

In response to the union mobilisation, Ash Grove management obtained a new injunction limiting union actions. The employer also filed a 2.6 CAD million (about 2.1 USD million) management grievance for lost production and equipment breakdown and dismissed two members of Local 177, including a member of the bargaining committee.

In a letter to CRH CEO Albert Manifold, IndustriALL Global Union is demanding an end to the union busting at the Joliette site in Quebec, Canada.

Alexander Ivanou, materials industries officer at IndustriALL, says:

“We are shocked at the employer’s behaviour. We express our strong solidarity with Unifor members and will seek solidarity from the CRH global union network and EWC. The union busting must stop immediately.”

CRH Canada employs 4,000 people in 100 production facilities. Worldwide, the global giant employs more than 76,000 people in over 3,000 locations in 29 countries on four continents.