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United Steelworkers files ILO complaint against Quebec government

17 June, 2019USW Métallos in Canada, whose 1,000 members in Bécancour, Québec, have been locked out from work at the Alcoa plant for nearly 17 months after the company refused to negotiate, has filed a complaint with the International Labour Organization.

The USW complaint stems from Quebec Premier François Legault’s interference in negotiations in the 17-month lockout at the aluminum smelter in Bécancour, co-owned by aluminum giants Alcoa and Rio Tinto.
“By his statements aimed at discrediting the trade union position by repeatedly describing it as 'unreasonable', the Premier came to put all his weight behind the company in a negotiation in the private sector. This is contrary to international law and we are asking the ILO to take charge of the case,” says Alain Croteau, Steelworkers’ Quebec director.
The complaint cites violations of ILO Conventions on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work as well as the Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, and lists at least nine public statements by the Premier between 1 April 1 and 3 June.

“By agreeing with the employer and putting undue pressure on workers through public opinion, the Premier has undermined the negotiation and mediation processes. The Premier’s interference casts doubt on the government’s objectivity on the file, at the very time when the Minister of Labour was filing a proposed settlement and the union is asking for the co-operation of the authorities to enforce anti-scab legislation,” says USW Local 9700 president Clément Masse.

The lockout at ABI was triggered by Alcoa and Rio Tinto on 11 January last year, even though the union had indicated it did not intend to exercise its right to strike and that only a few issues remained outstanding at the bargaining table. The employer has since added several new demands, further reducing the prospect of a settlement. On 11 March 11, 82 per cent of union members rejected an employer offer which was inferior to the one made before the lockout was imposed.  

“IndustriALL Global Union cannot accept that politicians interfere in such a biased manner with social partner negotiations. It is a serious threat for the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

“Workers are voters and they have the right to be respected by politicians and governments. We fully support our affiliate’s concern over this breach of balanced judgment, which leads to a loss of trust in politicians,” says Matthias Hartwich, IndustriALL base metals director.