Canadian Manufacturing

Government calls management, union to talks to end Quebec smelter lockout

The ABI aluminum smelter, owned by Alcoa and Rio Tinto, locked out more than 1,000 workers last month after they voted against a new contract offer


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MONTREAL—The United Steelworkers says it is “very pleased” that the Quebec government has called the union and officials from the ABI aluminum smelter in Becancour, Que., to meetings in Quebec City later this week.

Some 1,030 employees were locked out in the middle of the night on Jan. 11, less than 24 hours after they voted against a company contract offer by more than 80 per cent.

A few hundred are expected to demonstrate Wednesday in front of the Quebec legislature.

Quebec Labour Minister Dominique Vien says he called the two sides together to take stock of the dispute, given there have been no negotiations since the lockout began.

Vien noted that while the dispute is a private matter, the government “is following the issue closely” and will continue trying to bring the parties to a negotiated agreement.

Clement Masse, the president of United Steelworkers Local 9700, says if the Friday meeting can help, then “all the better,” and hopes it will convince the company to negotiate a new contract.

The union has said the key issue in the dispute is a company plan to introduce a new member-funded pension plan instead of a defined benefit plan.

ABI has said it would use management to continue one production line out of three for the duration of the lockout.

The ABI smelter is 75 per cent owned by Alcoa and 25 per cent by Rio Tinto Alcan.


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