Quebec Steelworkers Show Solidarity with B.C. Strikers

USW aluminum workers in Quebec have reaffirmed their longstanding solidarity with colleagues in British Columbia who have been on strike for more than two months to resist concession demands by resource giant Rio Tinto.

Steelworkers Local 9490, which represents the 650 workers at Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelter in Alma, Quebec, pledged ongoing financial support to the striking members of Unifor Local 2301 at Rio Tinto's aluminum smelter in Kitimat, B.C.

“Steelworkers Local 9490 wishes to offer our solidarity and support to our brothers and sisters of Unifor Local 2301,” USW Local 9490 President Sylvain Maltais said in a recent letter to the Unifor members.

“Our members know the importance of solidarity among Rio Tinto workers and among aluminum workers generally. We know only too well that the gains you make are also our gains, and vice versa,” Maltais said.

The Alma Steelworkers made an initial financial contribution of $65,000 to the Kitimat strikers, and pledged ongoing support of $16,000 per week, for the duration of the strike.

A few days following the Steelworkers’ pledge of support to the strikers, Unifor and Rio Tinto announced they has negotiated a tentative agreement that could bring an end to the dispute, pending a ratification vote by union members. The workers went on strike July 25.

USW members in Alma remember the financial and moral support provided by Unifor members from Kitimat when the Quebec workers were forced into a prolonged strike by Rio Tinto in 2012, Maltais said.

“Over the years, our two locals have forged unique ties that allow us to better safeguard our working conditions, prepare for our respective negotiations, oversee our grievance files from one aluminum plant to another, monitor industry trends and customs and tariffs issues, and build international solidarity,” he said in his letter to the Kitimat strikers.

“The fight you are waging to defend your pensions, your wages, your benefits and working conditions, and to resist contracting out, is also our fight.”

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