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Alcoa Shows Contempt for Government-Initiated Negotiation Process

TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. – Alcoa's decision to shut down half of the pot lines currently operating at its ABI smelter in Bécancour shows outright contempt for a mediation process initiated by the Quebec government to try to resolve an 11-month lockout at the facility.

Quebec’s Minister of Labour created a special mediation council, chaired by former Premier Lucien Bouchard, to assist in negotiations between the ABI smelter and the United Steelworkers (Syndicat des Métallos), which represents the 1,030 workers who were locked out of their jobs last January.

The Minister of Labour had given the parties until December 21 to reach a negotiated settlement. However, two days before the deadline, Alcoa has announced it will shut down half of the pot line that it has been operating during the lockout (two other pot lines in the smelter have been idle).

Alcoa’s announcement makes a mockery of the negotiation process and has negative implications for the community and the entire province, the Steelworkers say.

"Shutting down half of the pot line increases the costs and time required to restart production. This is a flagrant lack of respect for the negotiation process, two days before the deadline set by the Quebec government,” said Clément Masse, President of Steelworkers Local 9700, representing the ABI workers.

“Alcoa's management is mocking the government and the negotiation process it has initiated. Management’s bad faith in this process is becoming more evident by the day," Masse said.

In recent months, the company has reneged on previous commitments at the bargaining table and made demands for new concessions, the Steelworkers say.

“Alcoa wants to make the workers, their families and the entire region pay for the cost of their misguided lockout. Alcoa keeps widening the gap, rather than working towards a resolution,” Masse said.

Alcoa owns a 75% stake in the ABI smelter, with Rio Tinto owning the remaining 25%.

In addition to the damage they have caused in the region by locking out more than 1,000 ABI employees, Alcoa and Rio Tinto are inflicting economic losses on the publicly owned utility Hydro-Québec as well as the Quebec government and all Quebecers.

Hydro-Québec has been deprived of more than $200 million in revenue since the lockout began on Jan. 11, as ABI invoked an ‘Act of God’ or force majeure clause in its contract in order to stop paying for the electricity dedicated to the smelter.

“By closing half of the remaining pot line, ABI increases the revenue losses for the Quebec government. All Quebecers will pay for these losses, when hydro rates for the public will have to be increased to compensate for the lost revenue. It’s just another way Alcoa is mocking Quebeckers,” Masse said.

Alcoa and Rio Tinto opted to lock out the 1,030 ABI employees in January even though the union believed a negotiated settlement was within reach over the outstanding issues of pension plan financing and seniority rights in personnel transfers.

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For further information:

Clairandrée Cauchy, United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos (Montreal), 514-774-4001, ccauchy@metallos.ca

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