Historic Labour Victory

After years of relentless activism led by Steelworkers, landmark labour law reforms have been passed to prohibit employers from imposing two-tier pension and benefit plans in Quebec workplaces.

The new legislation, passed in June, bans two-tier plans intended to impose substandard pensions and benefits on new hires and young workers, compared to existing employees. Legislation banning two-tier wage schemes has been in place in Quebec since 2001.

“We are tremendously proud that the battles led by so many Steelworkers’ members have been successful, not only in terms of their individual collective agreements, but also in playing a key role in shaping labour law in Quebec,” said Steelworkers District 5 Director Alain Croteau.

Along with the Quebec Federation of Labour, Steelworkers led the campaign to ban two-tier pensions and benefits through strikes, lockouts and years of public advocacy and lobbying.

Many private-sector labour disputes in recent years have been provoked by employers’ attempts to impose two-tier pension and benefit plans, Croteau noted.

“In 2007, our members at Rio Tinto Fer et Titane in Havre-Saint-Pierre led the way in resisting two-tier pension demands, going on strike for months rather than give up their defined-benefit plan,” he said.

“In 2016, our members at Ciment Lafarge in Saint-Constant also rejected a two-tier pension plan. They were followed a year later by their fellow members at Resco and at Samuel et Fils,” he added.

“In addition to these disputes, many, many other Steelworkers successfully fought back at the bargaining table to reject two-tier demands and to secure agreements that maintain the same pensions and benefits for all.”

Dominic Lemieux, Assistant to the USW District 5 Director, worked for a decade to build support for a legislative ban on two-tier pensions and benefits, in his previous role as president of the Quebec Labour Federation’s youth wing.

“This is a tremendous victory that refutes critics who like to imply that the union movement is disconnected from young people,” Lemieux said. “We are now seeing the results of a union-led struggle that was fought for young people and with young people, for fairness and solidarity in our workplaces.”


This article appears in the September 2018 edition of the National Director's Update.

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