As lockout at Quebec smelter nears eighth month,
ABI management demands more concessions, job cuts
31 July 2018
Almost eight months after locking out the 1,030 workers at the Aluminerie de Bécancour Inc. (ABI) aluminum smelter in Bécancour, Quebec, its co-owners—Alcoa and Rio Tinto-Alcan—are demanding even more concessions and threatening massive job cuts.
In its “final” offer last December, ABI demanded the scrapping of the workers’ defined-benefits pension scheme and its replacement by an entirely worker-funded plan. Management also sought to gut seniority rights.
On January 11, the company locked out the workers after they overwhelmingly rejected its concessions demand.
In March, when ABI representatives met with United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9700 officials, they provocatively announced that the December “final offer” was no longer valid and that workers would have to accept even more draconian concessions if they wanted to go back to work. They then refused to even spell out what their new concession demands were.
When negotiations finally did resume in the late spring, the union agreed to a news blackout that keeps the membership entirely in the dark not only about the employer’s demands, but also the extent to which the union has already ceded to management.
The few snippets of information the union has released underscore that the aluminum giants are intent on imposing a major defeat on the ABI workers, so as to boost profits and intimidate workers at their facilities worldwide.
According to the USW, the company has said it intends to slash the ABI workforce by 20 percent or more than 200 jobs. Management subsequently confirmed that it is planning to use the lockout to “adjust its organizational structure … thanks to a wave…