Alma Steelworkers Raise the Bar on Women’s Health and Safety

In conjunction with International Women’s Day and the USW’s Raising the Bar campaign, Steelworkers Local 9490 leaders launched a joint labour-management process in March to tackle women’s health and safety issues at the Rio Tinto aluminum smelter in Alma, Que.

SL-9490-RTB-3Issues were raised by seven women who are Local 9490 members: Guylaine Girard, Marilyne Gagnon, Lauriane Simard, Suzie Fournier, Marie-Christine Guimond-Beaulieu, Mélanie Tremblay and Sabrina Simard. Local 9490 President Sylvain Maltais also participated in the meeting with two of the smelter’s senior managers.

“It opened the door to a discussion of women’s issues and the irritants that women still face in the plant, even 20 years after it opened,” said Suzie Fournier, Local 9490 Women of Steel committee chair. “We hope it will lead to improvements.”

Each woman addressed an issue close to her heart but which has an impact on all women workers, including: poor-fitting PPE; access to washrooms; adapting work practices and tools to the needs of women; the impact of ageing; sensitivity and respect as workers experience menopause; and ensuring a gender-appropriate welcome and workplace orientation for new female hires.

“The company wants to attract more women and this discussion set clear guidelines aimed at addressing recurring problems,” Maltais said.

The parties agreed to continue this important conversation. Management also pledged to implement provisions of the collective agreement related to equal employment opportunities for women, and to establish a joint committee to assess and improve the employment experience for the plant’s female workers.

Is your local union, health and safety committee or women of steel committee interested in Raising the Bar? For more information, please contact:

District 3: Ed Kent – ekent@usw.ca 
District 5: Julie Hébert – jhebert@metallos.ca
District 6: Sylvia Boyce – sboyce@usw.ca

Stay tuned for more reports about what local union activists are doing to Raise the Bar!

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