Canadian and Mexican Union Leaders Support Locked-Out ABI Workers

BÉCANCOUR, Que. – United Steelworkers (USW) members across Canada and the U.S. will mobilize to support workers locked out of their jobs at the ABI aluminum smelter, USW Canadian Director Ken Neumann says.

Neumann and Steelworkers Quebec Director Alain Croteau were joined on the picket line today by leaders of Mexico’s national miners’ union Los Mineros, who also pledged their solidarity with ABI workers who have been targeted by multinationals Alcoa and Rio Tinto – co-owners of the Bécancour smelter.

“It’s unacceptable that these two multinationals have decided to play with the lives of more than 1,000 families just to serve their corporate interests,” Neumann said.

“Steelworkers have a well-established tradition of international solidarity when working people are under attack by global corporate giants. Our local unions everywhere will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you,” Neumann told the locked-out ABI employees.

In coming days the USW will be informing its local unions across the country about the lockout and will be mobilizing support for the workers.

“Multinational corporations often seek to divide workers, but our strength lies in our solidarity,” Los Mineros representatives Oscar Alzaga and Jesús Armando Velásquez said in a joint statement to the locked-out workers. “Be assured that you have the support of our members, the miners of Mexico.”

The Bécancour workers also have received the backing of the global trade union federation IndustriALL, which represents more than 50 million workers in 140 countries. The international federation has called on ABI management to return to the bargaining table to seek a negotiated resolution to the lockout.

Steelworkers Quebec Director Alain Croteau called on the Quebec government to get off the sidelines and fulfill its duty to the working families and the community affected by an unnecessary lockout orchestrated by foreign corporations.

“We are confronted by two multinationals that receive massive benefits in the form of low-cost hydro rates and in return they are holding an entire community hostage,” Croteau said.

“This lockout has little to do with labour-management negotiations. Workers and their families are paying the price for corporate scheming intended to boost aluminum prices and get lower hydro rates. The Quebec government can no longer stand by and condone this unacceptable situation.”

ABI management, with the blessing of Alcoa and Rio Tinto, locked out 1,030 employees at the smelter in the middle of the night on Jan. 11, in the process rejecting the union’s offer to continue negotiations.

The lockout and accompanying shutdown of two potlines at the smelter are creating significant costs for the company that far exceed the cost of resolving the issues separating the parties at the bargaining table, the USW says. The outstanding issues involve the workers’ pension plan and seniority rights.

Donations to the locked-out workers can be sent to:

ATTN: Éric Moore, financial secretary
Syndicat des Métallos, section locale 9700
8310, rue Desormeaux
Bécancour, Québec
G9H 2X2


For further information:

Clairandrée Cauchy, Syndicat des Métallos/USW Communications, 514-774-4001, ccauchy@metallos.ca

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