Quebec: Steelworkers union maneuvering to impose concessions on locked-out aluminum workers
10 February 2018
United Steelworkers (USW) leaders have welcomed a Quebec National Assembly motion calling on the Aluminerie de Bécancour Inc. (ABI )—a joint venture of Alcoa and Rio Tinto-Alcan—to resume negotiations with the 1,030 aluminum smelter workers it locked out January 11.
The union has also touted phony claims of support for the workers from various capitalist politicians, most notably Martine Ouellet, a former Parti Québécois cabinet minister and the current head of the Bloc Québécois, the pro-Quebec independence party in the Canadian parliament.
These actions must be taken by the ABI workers and their supporters as a warning that the union leadership is preparing to impose a concessionary agreement, including pension cuts.
Indeed, in interviews USW Local 9700 President Clément Masse has repeatedly insisted that that lock out is unnecessary, because the union had been working with the company to “find solutions.”
“Just before Rio Tinto and Alcoa took the decision to withdraw from the negotiating table, big steps had been made,” said Masse recently. “Discussions had even taken place on renouncing the actual pension plan and replacing it with a new one according to the exigencies of the employer. We also had just begun to address the issue of respecting seniority when changing work assignments.”
In a second interview, with L’aut’journal, a monthly tied to the union bureaucracy and Quebec nationalist circles, Masse said the union was ready to be “flexible” on the work assignment issue as well, but could not entirely waive seniority rights.
The Local 9700 leadership gave BQ leader Ouellet a rousing reception when she visited…