United Steelworkers Canada News Feed http://www.uswca.org/news/media-centre/releases/rss United Steelworkers Canada Releases Feed Wed, 17 Apr 2019 17:16:58 -0400 AMPS en hourly 1 Quebec Labour Minister Proposes Settlement in 15-Month ABI Lockout https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/quebec-labour-minister-proposes-settlement-in-15-month-abi-lockout Wed, 17 Apr 2019 17:16:58 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/quebec-labour-minister-proposes-settlement-in-15-month-abi-lockout QUEBEC CITY – The Syndicat des Métallos/United Steelworkers (USW) will take the next few days to review a proposal from Quebec’s Labour Minister aimed at resolving a 15-month lockout of workers at the ABI aluminum smelter in Bécancour.

Labour Minister Jean Boulet presented the proposed settlement today in a meeting with Dominic Lemieux, assistant to the Steelworkers’ Quebec Director, and Clément Masse, President of USW Local 9700, which represents 1,030 workers who have been locked out of their jobs at the ABI plant since January 2018.

The labour minister’s proposal also has been presented to ABI management. To have any effect, such a settlement proposal must be accepted by both parties in a labour dispute.

USW representatives will not comment on the minister’s proposal while they review the document over the next few days.

Earlier this month, after Quebec Premier François Legault publicly sided with the company’s position demanding massive concessions from workers, ABI summarily rejected a compromise proposal put forward by the Steelworkers.

Emboldened by the premier’s support, ABI also rejected a resumption of negotiations as well as the option of pursuing arbitration to resolve the dispute.

ABI is co-owned by aluminum giants Alcoa (75% stake) and Rio Tinto (25%). The two multinationals decided to lock out the ABI workers on Jan. 11, 2018, and have since made increasing demands for concessions.

ABI’s lockout has resulted in revenue losses of more than $165 million for the province’s publicly owned utility, Hydro-Québec.

The Syndicat des Métallos/United Steelworkers, affiliated with the FTQ, is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers from all economic sectors.

USW Welcomes B.C. Government Review of WorkSafeBC Actions In Sawmill Explosions https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/usw-welcomes-b-c-government-review-of-worksafebc-actions-in-sawmill-explosions Thu, 11 Apr 2019 11:36:43 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/usw-welcomes-b-c-government-review-of-worksafebc-actions-in-sawmill-explosions VANCOUVER, April 11, 2019 - The United Steelworkers (USW) is welcoming today's announcement by the Government of British Columbia that Vancouver lawyer Lisa Helps has been retained to assess the actions WorkSafeBC in relation to sawmill explosions at Babine Forest Products and Lakeland Mills. 

The explosions in 2012 killed four workers and injured dozens more in the communities of Burns Lake and Prince George. The USW has been fighting for answers and justice for the victims and families who continue to be affected by the tragic events.

"For seven years, we have been standing with victims, families and community members who have been desperate for answers," says USW District 3 Director Stephen Hunt. "Through the Coroners' Inquests, the Dyble Report and the Macatee Report, we learned that WorkSafeBC failed to live up to its responsibility to protect the health and safety of workers."

Hunt cites the revelation emanating from a Steelworker FOI request that WorkSafeBC circulated an internal document following the explosion at Babine Forest Products and prior to the explosion at Lakeland Mills. The document, which stated WorkSafeBC was concerned that an enforcement strategy to address wood dust in sawmills would lead to industry pushback, continues to be a damning indictment of the agency's culture and needs to be addressed, he says.

"I'm grateful that the Government of British Columbia is taking this important step to address the many concerns that remain with the actions of WorkSafeBC with the intention of providing recommendations to ensure that similar tragedies are prevented. The United Steelworkers looks forward to participating fully in this process," Hunt says.

A report, including recommendations, will be delivered to the attorney general by mid-July 2019. After review, the attorney general will make public any recommendations related to improving processes or legislation.

The United Steelworkers' "Stop The Killing, Enforce The Law" campaign has been focused on lobbying governments at every level to protect the health and safety of all workers and ensuring that the Westray Law is applied when appropriate.

The United Steelworkers Dismisses Government Announcement and Renews Calls for Independent Ombudsperson https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/the-united-steelworkers-dismisses-government-announcement-and-renews-calls-for-independent-ombudsperson Mon, 08 Apr 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/the-united-steelworkers-dismisses-government-announcement-and-renews-calls-for-independent-ombudsperson TORONTO – The United Steelworkers (USW) reacted angrily to today’s announcement by International Trade Diversification Minister Carr that a powerless special advisor has been appointed to address long-standing human rights concerns related to the Canadian corporate behaviour overseas.

“It has been evident for years that an independent, effective human rights ombudsperson is desperately needed to investigate allegations of human rights abuses by Canadian companies operating overseas. Unfortunately, today’s announcement by the Liberal Government failed to act on this need, betraying the Liberal promise made in the last federal election, and reneging on their announcement of January 2018,” said Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada. 

“The government has had 4 years to make good on their campaign promise.  A year ago, it appeared that they were going to do so.  With today’s announcement by Minister Carr of the appointment of a special advisor, without the powers of an effective ombudsperson, this government has again disappointed thousands of Canadians who were expecting serious action on human rights,” said Neumann.

“We can’t help but wonder if today’s announcement is an example of back-room pressure by well connected corporate lobbyists.  How else can today’s announcement of the need for yet more study be explained?” asked Neumann.

The United Steelworkers are calling on this government to immediately appoint a human rights ombudsperson under the Inquires Act, with the power to compel evidence from Canadians and Canadian companies.

The United Steelworkers endorses the statement of the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability issued today. 


Steelworkers Take ABI Lockout Battle to Global Stage https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/steelworkers-take-abi-lockout-battle-to-global-stage Fri, 05 Apr 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/steelworkers-take-abi-lockout-battle-to-global-stage VANCOUVER – At the United Steelworkers (USW) National Policy Conference in Vancouver, union leaders from across Quebec, Canada and North America have announced a global campaign to support locked-out workers at the ABI aluminum smelter in Bécancour, Que.

More than 1,000 workers at the ABI smelter, co-owned by multinationals Alcoa (75% stake) and Rio Tinto (25%) have been locked out of their jobs for 15 months.

On Thursday, Clément Masse, President of USW Local 9700, representing the locked-out ABI workers, addressed 600 delegates and labour activists attending the Steelworkers conference in Vancouver.

Masse left Vancouver today with a USW delegation travelling to Australia to launch the global campaign to build international solidarity with workers to challenge Alcoa’s anti-labour practices.

The campaign begins tomorrow with the Steelworkers delegation attending the national conference of the Australian Workers Union (AWU), the largest union representing Rio Tinto and Alcoa workers in Australia.

"Wherever Alcoa has facilities, suppliers, customers, we’ll be there,” USW International President Leo W. Gerard told delegates to the union’s conference in Vancouver.

“It will take as long as it takes, but we will show them that they have to negotiate a collective agreement with the ABI workers,” Gerard said.

Delegates to the USW conference condemned the senseless lockout at the ABI smelter, provoked and then prolonged by demands by Alcoa and Rio Tinto for more and more concessions from workers.

“Alcoa is opposed to any negotiations. They keep adding new demands and are trying to break our union. The support of union members everywhere makes the difference in resisting this multinational corporation,” Masse said.

“The only way to win this battle is by showing Alcoa that we are united behind the locked-out workers in Bécancour. We are united not only in Quebec and across Canada, but in the United States and around the world,” said USW Canadian Director Ken Neumann.

USW Quebec Director Alain Croteau announced that the locked-out ABI workers will be in Pittsburgh on May 8 to protest at the Alcoa shareholders’ meeting.

“Alcoa thinks it is going to force its workers to come back on their knees, but they’re miscalculating. They’re misjudging these workers and they’re misjudging the Steelworkers,” Croteau said.

The 1,030 locked-out workers at the Bécancour smelter were locked out on Jan. 11, 2018. Since it locked out the workers, the company has subsequently made several new concession demands.

On March 11, the workers voted by an 82% majority to  reject a new company offer that demanded greater concessions than ever.

Following the vote, the union introduced a good-faith counter-proposal that included several compromises and provided the company with flexibility to increase productivity. ABI rejected the compromise proposal out of hand and has since rejected any resumption of negotiations.

The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers in all sectors of the economy.

Morneau Must Finalize Steel Safeguards to Defend Canadian Jobs and Communities https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/morneau-must-finalize-steel-safeguards-to-defend-canadian-jobs-and-communities Wed, 03 Apr 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/morneau-must-finalize-steel-safeguards-to-defend-canadian-jobs-and-communities OTTAWA – Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau has only weeks to make steel safeguards final and ward off the decimation of thousands of Canadian jobs, the United Steelworkers (USW) union says.

“If existing safeguards are not finalized, a surge of foreign imports will devastate Canada’s steel industry and communities across the country,” USW National Director Ken Neumann said following a decision today by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT).

The USW is disappointed in the CITT’s recommendation that the Finance Minister impose safeguard measures on only two foreign steel products. The recommendation is not binding on the Finance Minister.

The USW is calling on Morneau to use his statutory authority to impose final safeguard measures on all seven steel products that are the subject of the safeguard inquiry. Otherwise, the safeguards will expire on April 27, reopening the Canadian market to a surge of imports.

Last October, temporary safeguards were imposed on the seven steel products to protect Canadian steel producers and workers from a surge in imports from countries shut out of the U.S. market by President Donald Trump’s tariffs.

“These safeguards have been working since they were implemented last fall. The safeguards have had their desired effect and we’re extremely concerned about the potential impact on Canadian workers and communities if they are removed,” Neumann said.

“Minister Morneau and his government must act decisively, otherwise Canada will be wide open to a flood of imports of unfairly traded, illegally subsidized foreign steel from jurisdictions including China, Turkey and Vietnam,” he said.

“Canadian jobs and communities are now at risk. If the federal government does not take strong action, we will stand alone in the world in leaving our workers, our communities and our steel industry at the mercy of a flood of damaging imports,” Neumann said.

“Countries around the world, from the U.S. to Turkey, from Mexico to European Union members, have taken measures to protect their markets and their workers,” Neumann noted.

“Minister Morneau not only has the statutory authority to act, he has a moral obligation to defend tens of thousands of Canadian jobs and hundreds of communities across the country.”

ABI Upends Conciliation, Rejects Negotiated Settlement to Lockout https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/abi-upends-conciliation-rejects-negotiated-settlement-to-lockout Wed, 03 Apr 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/abi-upends-conciliation-rejects-negotiated-settlement-to-lockout TROIS-RIVIÈRES – Fifteen months after locking out more than 1,000 employees, management of the ABI aluminum smelter in Bécancour showed up empty-handed at a conciliation session today and dismissed a compromise settlement proposal from the union.

“The company came to the meeting with its chest puffed up, emboldened by the Premier’s recent inappropriate statements that took sides against the workers. ABI didn’t even bother to respond to our counter-proposal that includes several compromises aimed at reaching a settlement,” said Clément Masse, President of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9700, representing the 1,030 locked-out ABI employees.

“The company refused to resume formal negotiations. Worse still, it continues to dangle the threat of shutting down the last pot line that is operating in the plant,” Masse said.

“Clearly, the Premier’s inappropriate intervention in the dispute has added fuel to the fire and is undermining the prospects for a resolution.”

ABI is standing by a previous proposal that was rejected by an 82% majority of locked-out workers in a March 11 vote. The last ABI offer demanded even greater concessions from workers than the company’s demands that led to its lockout of workers 15 months ago.

ABI, co-owned by aluminum giants Alcoa (75% stake) and Rio Tinto (25%), locked out its workers on Jan. 11, 2018.

On March 27, in the National Assembly of Quebec, Premier François Legault derided the energy contract between the government, Hydro-Québec and Alcoa. He characterized the contract as “junior stuff,” saying he had “fallen off my chair” when he learned of its provisions.

The Premier was highly critical that the contract allows Alcoa to classify its lockout as an ‘Act of God’ in order to avoid its electricity-purchasing commitments with publicly owned Hydro-Québec. Hydro-Québec has confirmed it lost $165 million in revenues in 2018 alone as a result of the lockout.

“However, now François Legault is admitting he is powerless to break these energy contracts, and he decides to strike out against those who are most adversely affected by this dispute – the workers,” said Dominic Lemieux, assistant to the USW’s Quebec Director.

“Workers feel they have been abandoned by their government. Remember, this is not a strike, it's a lockout. And the union is not making any demands for more. It has already opened the door to compromises on several issues, including the reduction of more than 100 positions,” Lemieux said.

“Already under attack by multinationals that continue to make new demands for concessions and cuts, the workers feel betrayed by a Premier who has decided to take sides with an American multinational rather than workers and their regional economy.”

The ABI aluminum smelter already has the lowest labour costs per tonne of production among all of Alcoa’s North American operations, and wages are comparable to other Quebec aluminum smelters.

The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers in all sectors of the economy.

Jagmeet Singh, John Horgan, Tanya Talaga to Address Steelworkers National Conference https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/jagmeet-singh-john-horgan-tanya-talaga-to-address-steelworkers-national-conference Fri, 29 Mar 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/jagmeet-singh-john-horgan-tanya-talaga-to-address-steelworkers-national-conference VANCOUVER – Beginning on Tuesday, April 2, in Vancouver, the United Steelworkers union (USW) will hold its triennial National Policy Conference. Speaking and presenting to USW members will be a number of well-known Canadian political leaders, international labour leaders and social justice activists.

Conference delegates will debate and make decisions on issues affecting Steelworkers and labour more generally, including U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, collective bargaining in modern times, domestic violence in the workplace and Indigenous issues in the workplace.

Media are welcome to attend as accredited observers.

     WHAT:       54th United Steelworkers National Policy Conference

     WHEN:      April 2-5, 2016

     WHERE:   Westin Bayshore, 1601 Bayshore Dr., Vancouver

     WHO:        Jagmeet Singh, Federal NDP Leader
                       John Horgan, B.C. Premier
                       Tanya Talaga, Anishinaabe Canadian author/journalist
                       Union leaders from around the globe
                       600 USW activists from across Canada

Rank-and-file Steelworkers activists meet every three years for the USW National Policy Conference to set the union’s policies and priorities. The 2019 conference will be attended by 600 Steelworkers activists from across Canada, as well as national and international guests and dignitaries.

USW National Director Ken Neumann will deliver the opening address to the conference at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 2.

Jagmeet Singh, Leader of Canada’s New Democrats, will be the guest speaker on the conference’s first day, at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan will address conference delegates on Wednesday, April 3, at 9 a.m.

Also on Wednesday, Tanya Talaga, award-winning author and investigative journalist, will be a guest speaker during a session addressing Indigenous rights issues, beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Other conference speakers will include USW International President Leo W. Gerard (Wednesday, 3:45 p.m.); Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union, the largest union in the U.K. and Republic of Ireland (Thursday, 9 a.m.); and Napoleón Gómez, Senator, Republic of Mexico, and leader of Mexico’s Los Mineros union (Friday, 9 a.m.).

The USW represents 225,000 workers in virtually every sector of the Canadian economy.

* For media accreditation to attend the conference, contact Sarah-Louise Quig at 647-999-3098, squig@usw.ca.

Report Explores Anti-Muslim Attitudes in Canada https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/report-explores-anti-muslim-attitudes-in-canada Mon, 25 Mar 2019 10:15:16 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/report-explores-anti-muslim-attitudes-in-canada There has been a steady rise of hate crimes targeting Muslim communities in Canada and in other countries. This report highlights the important role trade unions must play in championing fairness, equity, and social justice for Muslims in Canada. And it also provides recommendations for employers and government on how to address Islamophobia.

Read the report

No USMCA Ratification Unless Tariffs, Quotas Rejected Outright: Steelworkers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/no-usmca-ratification-unless-tariffs-quotas-rejected-outright-steelworkers Fri, 22 Mar 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/no-usmca-ratification-unless-tariffs-quotas-rejected-outright-steelworkers ALMA, Que. – The federal government and all parliamentarians must be united in refusing to ratify the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement unless U.S. tariffs and quotas on Canadian steel and aluminum are rejected outright, United Steelworkers (USW) leaders say.

Meeting with workers today in Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean, Canada’s aluminum heartland, USW Canadian Director Ken Neumann and Quebec Director Alain Croteau called for a clear and resolute position from the federal government in support of the domestic steel and aluminum industries.

“The federal government, Prime Minister Trudeau himself, and all party leaders must be very clear with the Americans that this trade agreement will not be ratified until tariffs and quotas are removed from the equation,” Neumann and Croteau said in a joint statement.

The Steelworkers leaders plan to meet with all political party leaders to call for a united front in refusing USMCA ratification until tariffs and quotas are rejected outright in any resolution of the trade dispute with the U.S.

“There must be very clear unanimity on this issue, well before the next election campaign,” they said.

The USW leaders met today with workers at Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter in Alma affected by the baseless U.S. tariffs on Canadian aluminum exports.

Uncertainty caused by the existing U.S. tariffs, as well as speculation about possible quotas to replace the tariffs, are threatening investment in Canada, with reports that a plan to build a new aluminum billet plant in Alma has been put on hold, the USW says.

United Steelworkers leaders on both sides of the border have opposed the U.S. tariffs on Canadian products from the beginning.

“Tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel are unacceptable. Canada is a good trading partner of the United States and our steel and aluminum markets are highly integrated,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard.

“Workers in both countries are adversely affected by the tariffs. Tariffs are harmful not only to aluminum smelters, steel mills, processors and manufacturers in Canada, but they also have serious repercussions in the United States. The automotive industry, all the manufacturing plants that use our metals and ultimately American consumers are paying a high price,” Neumann said.

“This is all so unproductive. It’s not resulting in new aluminum smelters magically appearing in the United States. So while the Trump administration drags this out, jobs are being threatened in steel and aluminum here and expansion projects are being put on hold,” Croteau said.

Projects threatened

In the Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean region alone, tariffs are costing more than $50 million per month, while the prospect of quotas casts a shadow over expansion projects and threatens new job creation, the USW says.

“It seems everything is slowing down due to the American tariffs and the fear is that they will be replaced by quotas, as the American administration wants,” said Alexandre Fréchette, President of Steelworkers Local 9490, representing the Alma aluminum workers.

“The shadow hanging over the new billet plant here is a direct effect of the tariffs,” Fréchette said. “This uncertainty must be resolved quickly. We will put pressure on elected officials to make clear commitments. It’s all well and good to try to get the Americans to see the light, but the time has come for our elected officials to take real action.”

The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, with more than 60,000 workers in all sectors of the economy, including 3,000 in the aluminum industry. The United Steelworkers represents more than 225,000 workers across Canada.

Steelworkers Submit Counter-Proposal in 14-Month ABI Lockout https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/steelworkers-submit-counter-proposal-in-14-month-abi-lockout Thu, 21 Mar 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/steelworkers-submit-counter-proposal-in-14-month-abi-lockout TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. – The United Steelworkers union presented a counter-proposal to management of the ABI aluminum smelter today – 10 days after locked-out workers rejected a concession-laden company offer by an 82% majority.

The Steelworkers union says it hopes its counter-proposal will pave the way for the negotiation of a settlement between the parties to resolve the 14-month lockout, including a mutually acceptable return-to-work protocol.

The union’s new proposal takes into account five issues identified by the employer during special mediation sessions – the organization of work, personnel transfers, absenteeism, union leaves and the pension plan – as well as issues including wages and the length of the collective agreement.

“Even though most issues were already resolved prior to the lockout, we have taken into account the new requests made by the company and have addressed them in our counter-proposal. We have even proposed new compromises on some issues, compared to our position during the last round of negotiations,” said Clément Masse, President of Steelworkers Local 9700, representing the 1,030 locked-out ABI workers.

The union’s counter-proposal incorporates a pension plan funding model put forward by the employer, moving away from a defined benefit plan where risk is assumed by the employer.

“The member-funded pension plan is a huge concession compared to the former defined benefit plan, given that the risk is borne by the workers. This model should provide a plan similar to what is in place in other aluminum smelters. This allows Alcoa to meet shareholder objectives and remove the pension plan from the liability column of its financial statements,” Masse said.

The union said its counter-proposal also will increase productivity, with 103 positions expected to be reduced through attrition.

“The new work organization systems also will make it possible to respect seniority rights in personnel transfers. This is a responsible proposal that provides flexibility to the employer while ensuring that seniority and working conditions are respected. Our members are committed to this plant and we want to restart it, on a basis of mutual respect,” Masse said.

While the union points out that wages were never a contentious issue in negotiations, its counter-proposal calls for increases based on the most-recent offer from the employer. The union’s proposal calls for wage increases to be spread over an eight-year period, retroactive to the expiry of the previous collective agreement in November 2017.

“We have put forward a very clear counter-proposal that reflects several compromises compared to the union’s previous positions,” said Dominic Lemieux, assistant to the United Steelworkers’ Quebec Director.

“We are now appealing to the corporate shareholders to give a clear mandate to management to negotiate a settlement. A negotiated agreement will ensure the best-possible conditions for restarting the plant and resuming the production of quality aluminum and value-added products,” Lemieux said.

“Last week, our members sent a clear signal: they will not return on their knees. Today, the union executive is reaching out to the company and the shareholders to put an end to this dispute, through a negotiated settlement.”

The 1,030 union members at the Bécancour smelter were locked out on Jan. 11, 2018, by Alcoa and Rio Tinto.

Hydro-Québec recently reported that the lockout cost the publicly owned utility $165 million in lost revenues in 2018.

The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers in all sectors of the economy.

Government Fails to Deliver on Universal Pharmacare, Retiree Bankruptcy Protection and More https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/government-fails-to-deliver-on-universal-pharmacare-retiree-bankruptcy-protection Tue, 19 Mar 2019 18:43:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/government-fails-to-deliver-on-universal-pharmacare-retiree-bankruptcy-protection OTTAWA – The Liberal government’s budget has failed Canadians by not committing to a single-payer pharmacare plan that is universal, public, accessible, comprehensive and portable as they promised, says United Steelworkers (USW) National Director Ken Neumann.

“The budget fails to deliver a real pharmacare commitment to all Canadians,” said Neumann. “It is still a vague proposal to fill in the gaps. The patchwork system of the past will continue.”

Neumann noted that Canada is the only country in the world with a universal public health-care system that so far does not include access to prescription medication.

“To be truly comprehensive, a national drug plan must be universal and comprehensive to ensure that all Canadians, including the young and the vulnerable, can claim their right to health. It cannot be a piecemeal approach in the 21st century.”

The government also failed Canadian workers and retirees by not including anything specific in the budget to reform Canada’s bankruptcy and insolvency laws to protect pensions and benefits, Neumann said.

“Given high-profile cases such as Nortel in Ottawa, Stelco in Hamilton and Sears in communities across Canada, workers are increasingly afraid to retire,” he said. “They know how unsecure their pensions and benefits may be if a company enters restructuring under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) or goes bankrupt. 

“Pensions are deferred wages and, by the time banks and other creditors are paid, there is nothing left for workers. It amounts to theft.”

Neumann said all Canadians should be outraged by the treatment of older Canadians from laws that will continue to protect companies and executives, while exposing workers to all the risks and harm in insolvency.

“This issue was identified as a priority by Liberal Party members themselves in their party convention a year ago. This is an election issue for older, vulnerable workers and retirees.”

Meanwhile, communities that have lost resource jobs will not see any benefit from a $150-million infrastructure/diversification plan until 2020-21. Another plan for $251 million for forestry innovation and diversification will also have to wait until 2020-21.  

“This is clearly an election budget. However, Canadians cannot afford to wait another four years for the change they need,” said Neumann.

“The failures of this budget reflect a pattern with this government. Liberals make promises, go through four years without following through, then before the next election they promise to make good on their promises if you vote for them again.”

Neumann also noted that the budget’s single-largest commitment – nearly $4 billion in support for Canadian dairy, poultry and egg producers – is the direct result of the Liberal government’s concessions to foreign interests in multiple trade deals it approved in the last few years.

“Canadian producers and workers deserve support to cope with the harm they now face, but this harm would not have been inflicted in the first place if the Liberal government had not so eagerly signed on to these bad trade deals,” he said.

Enough Concessions, Steelworkers Tell Glencore https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/enough-concessions-steelworkers-tell-glencore Mon, 18 Mar 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/enough-concessions-steelworkers-tell-glencore BELLEDUNE, N.B. – Brunswick Smelter employees will vote in coming days on potential strike action in response to multinational Glencore’s never-ending demands for concessions in their working and living standards.

“Our members have given back to this company for the last several years,” said Bart Dempsey, President of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7085, representing 280 employees at the Brunswick Smelter in Belledune.

“Workers have sacrificed to help the company upgrade and expand the operation. We’ve taken concessions, we’ve given back more than our fair share. And still this company wants more,” Dempsey said.

“Our members are saying, ‘enough.’ It has to stop.”

The previous collective agreement between Local 7085 and Glencore expired on Feb. 28. The union has been trying to negotiate a new contract for more than five months, but Glencore is demanding more concessions from workers on key issues including pensions and benefits.

Local 7085 members will meet tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. at the Pointe-Verte municipal building to discuss negotiations and the timing of a strike vote.

 “They want to keep taking away from workers and their families. They want to take more from our pensions, from our benefits, from our health and safety representation and the union’s ability to represent workers,” Dempsey said.

“It’s time for Glencore to recognize the sacrifices its workers have made and the fact that their hard work is the key to the company’s success,” said Marty Warren, USW Director for Atlantic Canada and Ontario.

“Workers simply expect a fair deal in return. It’s time for Glencore to treat its employees, their families and their community with basic fairness and respect,” Warren said.

Steelworkers, Bedrock Reach Agreement on Pointe-Noire Pellet Plant https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/steelworkers-bedrock-reach-agreement-on-pointe-noire-pellet-plant Mon, 18 Mar 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/steelworkers-bedrock-reach-agreement-on-pointe-noire-pellet-plant SEPT-ÎLES, Que. - United Steelworkers (Syndicat des Métallos) Local 6254 and Bedrock Industries have reached an agreement-in-principle on a collective agreement renewal related to the restart of the Pointe-Noire pellet plant in Sept-Îles.

"We are very pleased to have reached an agreement-in-principle that will determine the working conditions that will be in place once the plant reopens," said Nicolas Lapierre, Steelworkers Co-ordinator for Quebec's North Shore region.

"The negotiations went well, with both parties demonstrating they were serious about the process," Lapierre said.

The agreement-in-principle calls for the collective agreement to be ratified by workers at the Pointe-Noire pellet plant once it is back in operation.

The Pointe-Noire plant employed Steelworkers members before its shutdown in June 2013. A few months later in 2014, Cliffs Natural Resources filed for protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act. It is now owned by the Société ferroviaire et portuaire de Pointe-Noire (SFPPN) and should be officially taken over by Bedrock Industries soon, once a commercial agreement between the two groups is finalized.

"This agreement-in-principle is one more step towards restarting the plant," said Steelworkers Local 6254 President Robert Roy.

"The collective agreement features competitive provisions that are in line with what exists in this sector. It will also allow some flexibility in the organization of work to facilitate the restart of production," Roy said.

The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing 60,000 workers in all sectors of the economy.

ADVISORY: Steelworkers Host Community Celebration of Hamilton’s Diversity https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/steelworkers-host-community-celebration-of-diversity Fri, 15 Mar 2019 07:30:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/steelworkers-host-community-celebration-of-diversity HAMILTON, 15 March 2019 – The Hamilton Steelworkers Area Council invites all residents to a celebration of our city’s diversity on Sunday, March 17, in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

WHAT: Communities Coming Together – the Hamilton Steelworkers Area Council commemoration of
the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Featuring: entertainment, food from around the world, discussions on diversity and discrimination issues.

Admission, food and refreshments are free.

WHO:         Residents of the Hamilton community – all are welcome

WHERE:     United Steelworkers Centre, 1031 Barton St. E., Hamilton

WHEN:       Sun., March 17, 2019, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

“We are very fortunate to live in a city as diverse as ours,” said Darren Green, President of the Hamilton Steelworkers Area Council. “We celebrate our community and the progress we’ve made in promoting inclusion, human rights and respect for diversity. We must also recognize there is more work to do to eliminate racial discrimination in our society.”

“We have had great participation and sponsorships from community organizations and individuals who recognize the importance of this day,” Green said.

The theme this year is Communities Coming Together.

“We have witnessed the constructive actions in response to events happening in our country and elsewhere over the last year and we want to have a conversation in an open and welcoming forum where everyone feels comfortable discussing what needs to be done going forward as a community.”

Locked-Out ABI Workers Reject Unilateral Offer, Demand Negotiated Settlement https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/locked-out-abi-workers-reject-unilateral-offer-demand-negotiated-settlement Mon, 11 Mar 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/locked-out-abi-workers-reject-unilateral-offer-demand-negotiated-settlement TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. – Locked-out workers from the ABI aluminum smelter voted by an 82% majority today to reject the company’s unilateral contract offer.

The vote came after 90% of the workers, locked out for 14 months, held a lengthy meeting to discuss the ABI offer as well as a proposed return-to-work protocol. Members of three separate bargaining units within United Steelworkers (Syndicat des Métallos) Local 9700 rejected the company’s offer.

“The offer represented a series of take-backs by the company. ABI has refused to negotiate, it has refused to accept third-party arbitration. It just wanted to impose its will, counting on fatigue from its 14-month lockout,” said Clément Masse, President of Steelworkers Local 9700.

“The answer from our members is clear: it didn't work. The members don't want to go back on their knees. Alcoa disrespects our Labour Code by negotiating in bad faith, it disrespects Quebecers by making them pay for its lockout, it disrespects workers by closing the door on negotiation as well as arbitration,” Masse said.

“The government of Quebec must intervene. The imbalance of power is unacceptable and the behaviour of this multinational is unacceptable," he added.

While only two issues were in dispute when ABI locked out its employees on Jan. 11, 2018, the company added to the list of concession demands with its latest, unilateral offer. Compared to proposals made to workers prior to the lockout, the latest offer called for concessions on issues including pensions, seniority, contracting out, eliminating positions, work organization and scheduling.

Prior to today’s vote by workers, the company publicly touted wage increases included in its unilateral offer, but wages were never a stumbling block in the dispute, the Steelworkers note.

ABI’s offer also was accompanied by a unilateral return-to-work protocol, which had not been the subject of any discussion between the parties. The company proposed that locked-out employees would return to work gradually, over a period of at least 10 months – and possibly longer – during which time managers and contract workers would take the jobs of regular employees.

“Such a prolonged return-to-work period is unprecedented,” Masse said. “The principle of a return-to-work protocol is to negotiate the armistice to the conflict. This protocol does the opposite, it sets fires. By way of comparison, following a labour dispute in 2004, everyone was back in the plant within six weeks.”

Steelworkers Quebec Director Alain Croteau urged aluminum giant Alcoa to change course and to pursue a fair settlement in order to restart the ABI smelter as soon as possible. Alcoa owns a 75% stake in the facility, with Rio Tinto owning the remaining 25%.

“This plant can be very productive – it already has the lowest labour costs in North America. This conflict is dragging on because the dice are loaded, because the Quebec government and Hydro-Québec are subsidizing Alcoa’s lockout,” Croteau said.

The union is protesting a Quebec government-sanctioned contract allowing ABI to classify its lockout as a “force majeure,” or Act of God, in order to suspend electricity-purchasing commitments with publicly owned utility Hydro-Québec. Hydro-Québec has confirmed that ABI’s lockout has resulted in a revenue loss of $165 million for the utility in 2018 alone.

The Steelworkers have called on Quebec Premier François Legault and his government to make good on their pre-election pledge last fall to resolve the ABI lockout.

“Mr. Legault, people would never tolerate the Government of Quebec giving $165 million to workers during a labour dispute. Why do you agree to subsidize a lockout imposed by a multinational like Alcoa? Mr. Premier, if you put your foot down, the multinationals will listen," Croteau said.

The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers from all economic sectors.

Former Rubber Workers Urged to Attend Occupational Disease Information Sessions https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/former-rubber-workers-urged-to-attend-occupational-disease-information-sessions Wed, 06 Mar 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/former-rubber-workers-urged-to-attend-occupational-disease-information-sessions KITCHENER-WATERLOO – Many years after rubber manufacturing plants left the region, former workers and surviving family members are being urged to attend information sessions in Kitchener this month to investigate occupational disease cases and potential compensation.

WHAT: Ontario Rubber Workers Project information sessions

WHO: Former rubber workers living with cancers and other illnesses, as well as surviving family members of deceased workers

WHERE: Holiday Inn Kitchener-Cambridge Conference Centre 30 Fairway Rd. S., Kitchener

WHEN: Thursday, March 28, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
             Friday, March 29, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
             * Presentation of relevant information to be held March 28 at 1 p.m.

The special sessions will be held at the Holiday Inn Kitchener-Cambridge Conference Centre, on March 28 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on March 29 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“I strongly urge former rubber workers diagnosed with cancers and other illnesses, as well as surviving family members of deceased workers, to attend these important information sessions,” said Marty Warren, Ontario/Atlantic Director of the United Steelworkers (USW), a partner in the Ontario Rubber Workers Project, which is organizing the sessions.

“Participants will receive friendly assistance and support to help document their cases,” said Warren, a former tire builder in Kitchener-Waterloo with first-hand experience of workplace exposure to industrial chemicals and toxins.

“Former workers and surviving family members should bring with them as much information and documentation of medical and work history as possible in order to review their cases and possibly pursue compensation claims,” Warren said.

Over that last several years, hundreds of former rubber workers who filed claims for compensation benefits saw their claims denied, Warren noted. The information sessions later this month will welcome those former workers and their survivors so they can have their cases reviewed, as well as workers and family members who have not filed claims previously, he added.

“We know that many rubber workers have died from workplace exposures and many others are struggling with cancers and other occupational diseases,” Warren said. “We believe many of these workers may have been wrongly denied compensation benefits in the past and we are committed to ensuring that they and their surviving family members receive the justice and dignity they deserve.”

The information sessions and the Ontario Rubber Workers Project are a joint effort by the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW), the Office of the Worker Adviser (OWA), the United Steelworkers, the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) and the Rubber Town Workers Alliance Group.

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) also is collaborating in the project. The WSIB  has announced it will re-examine more than 300 compensation claims previously filed by rubber workers and that it also will consider new claims.

Former workers and surviving family members are encouraged to register in advance for the March 28-29 information sessions, either by phone at 1-888-596-3800, or by email at rw@ohcow.on.ca.

Further details on the Ontario Rubber Workers Project, including information that former workers and family members should bring to the information sessions, are available at:


Locked-Out ABI Workers to Vote Monday on Company Offer https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/locked-out-abi-workers-to-vote-monday-on-company-offer Tue, 05 Mar 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/locked-out-abi-workers-to-vote-monday-on-company-offer BÉCANCOUR, Que. – Locked-out employees of the ABI aluminum smelter in Bécancour will meet Monday, March 11, to discuss and vote on a contract offer from the company.

Members of United Steelworkers (Syndicat des Métallos) Local 9700 will meet Monday at 1 p.m. to review and discuss a company offer that includes three collective agreements covering more than 1,000 workers, as well as a return-to-work protocol.

Steelworkers Local 9700 President Clément Masse said an analysis by the union’s bargaining committee confirmed that the company’s offer proposal is very similar to what was on the table when ABI broke off negotiations in mid-February. A return-to-work protocol was not part of previous discussions between the parties, he added.

“As for the content of the proposed collective agreements, it essentially reflects our previous report to members on the employer’s positions on the issues,” Masse noted.

“In the interest of transparency, the union executive has chosen to submit the employer's offer to a secret-ballot vote," he said, while denouncing the company’s decision to unilaterally present a comprehensive offer rather than pursuing a negotiated settlement.

The union is reserving further comment on the offer until members meet on Monday, Masse said.

ABI's 1,030 workers were locked out by smelter co-owners Alcoa and Rio Tinto on Jan. 11, 2018. Negotiations were stalled over the financing of the pension plan and respect for seniority in labour movements. Hydro-Québec recently reported that the lockout resulted in revenue losses for the public utility of $165 million in 2018.

Locked-Out Workers Ask Quebec Premier: What Are You Doing, Mr. Legault? https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/locked-out-workers-ask-quebec-premier-what-are-you-doing-mr-legault Fri, 01 Mar 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/locked-out-workers-ask-quebec-premier-what-are-you-doing-mr-legault BÉCANCOUR, Que. – Workers from the ABI aluminum smelter, locked-out of their jobs for nearly 14 months, gathered today at François Legault’s constituency office to ask the Quebec Premier a simple question: “What are you doing, Mr. Legault?”

The workers are protesting the Legault government’s inaction and a government-sanctioned contract allowing ABI to classify its employee lockout as a “force majeure,” or Act of God, in order to suspend electricity-purchasing commitments with publicly owned utility Hydro-Québec.

Hydro-Québec has confirmed that the ABI lockout has resulted in a revenue loss of $165 million for the utility in 2018 alone.

Allowing ABI – and U.S.-based majority owner Alcoa – to declare an intentional lockout of workers as an Act of God subverts the collective bargaining process and subsidizes the company’s attack on employees’ working standards, the Steelworkers union said.

“This lockout is dragging on because of the severe imbalance of power” in negotiations, said Clément Masse, President of Syndicat des Métallos/United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9700, representing the 1,030 ABI workers who have been locked out since Jan. 11, 2018.

“Imagine if the government gave a $165-million subsidy to union members to go on strike for more than a year. Quebecers would not accept it,” Masse said. “It is equally unacceptable to subsidize a labour dispute provoked by a foreign multinational. The Quebec government must act to restore the balance of power."

In addition to the demonstration at Legault’s office in the riding of L'Assomption, locked-out ABI workers also protested today outside the offices of members of Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government in the Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec regions – Simon Allaire, Donald Martel and Labour Minister Jean Boulet.

Workers noted that, during last fall’s Quebec election campaign, Legault pledged that resolving the ABI lockout would be a priority if his CAQ party was elected to power and he became Premier. At the time, Legault questioned the company’s actions as well as the leadership of the Liberal government.

“The management side doesn’t seem to be taking this seriously,” Legault said on Aug. 31, 2018, while in full campaign mode.

A week later, Legault criticized the Liberal government for its lack of meaningful action, saying ,”It is really time for some leadership from the government.”

The aspiring premier also sympathized with Steelworkers when they informed him of the dubious ‘Act of God’ clause that let ABI off the hook for its electricity commitments with Hydro-Québec, stating, “A contract can be broken, it can be renegotiated.”

However, since Legault came to power five months ago, little has changed and the lockout is into its 14th month. Alcoa backed out of negotiations that were set for February and then rejected a proposal from the union that the dispute be resolved through a government-led arbitration process.

“Alcoa wants to impose its will on Quebec workers and communities.,” Masse said.

“The government cannot allow an American multinational, which benefits significantly from favourable electricity rates for its three aluminum smelters in Quebec, to abuse workers and make all Quebecers pay for the costs of its lockout. We are asking the government to take serious action. We are asking the Premier to take action to back up the statements he made during the election campaign.”

The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers from all economic sectors.

United Steelworkers Prevail on Another Dumping Case https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/united-steelworkers-prevail-on-another-dumping-case Wed, 27 Feb 2019 12:00:00 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/united-steelworkers-prevail-on-another-dumping-case OTTAWA – Following compelling evidence presented by United Steelworkers (USW) members on the impact of foreign steel dumping, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) is imposing significant duties on certain exports from China, India, South Korea and Taiwan.

The CITT has ruled that the continued dumping of corrosion-resistant steel products from the four Asian countries poses a significant threat to Canadian steel producers and workers. The majority of the products in question will be subject to duties ranging from 33% to 53% over the next five years, the tribunal has decided.

The CITT ruling follows submissions made to the tribunal by USW representatives in December and January.

“The harm to workers and communities from massive dumping of cheap, illegally subsidized foreign steel into our country is very real,” said Gary Howe, President of USW Local 1005, representing 600 workers at Stelco operations in Hamilton.

“The result of these illegal practices – the suppression of prices, the loss of market share and lower production – flows down to Canadian workers and their families,” said Howe, who testified before the CITT.

The Hamilton plant was previously hit by layoffs and continues to run well under capacity, Howe noted, adding that if the dumping in question went unchecked, it would threaten plans to increase production at the facility.

USW members from steel plants across the country have been testifying before federal trade officials over the last year about the real impacts of foreign steel dumping and other unfair trade practices.

In a separate ruling earlier this month, the CITT agreed with evidence from USW members that Canadian workers and companies were being harmed by illegal dumping of steel pipe from Vietnam, Pakistan, Turkey and the Philippines. The tribunal imposed significant duties on those offending producers – ranging from 46% to 66% for five years.

“The livelihoods of Canadian families are profoundly affected when unfairly traded products are dumped into our country,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann.

“It affects the ability of Canadian workers to negotiate fair collective agreements. It affects the ability of Canadian workers to keep their jobs. It results in layoffs and in plant closures. It makes it much more difficult for tens of thousands of workers and retirees across Canada to preserve their pensions and benefits,” Neumann said.

The impact of foreign dumping on Canadian manufacturers and workers continues to be exacerbated by the illegal U.S. tariffs imposed on Canadian steel and aluminum, Neumann added.

“The baseless U.S. tariffs on our steel and aluminum products are the key problem facing Canadian workers, producers and communities,” he said.

“Rather than take a clear stand from the beginning, that it would not sign nor ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement unless the U.S. tariffs were lifted, the Canadian government has allowed this problem to endure far too long.”

Jagmeet Singh Byelection Win Signals Momentum for NDP – Steelworkers https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/jagmeet-singh-byelection-win-signals-momentum-for-ndp Mon, 25 Feb 2019 23:26:55 -0500 https://www.usw.ca/news/media-centre/releases/2019/jagmeet-singh-byelection-win-signals-momentum-for-ndp TORONTO – Jagmeet Singh’s decisive byelection win is a significant victory for the NDP, signalling much-needed momentum for the party and its leader, say the United Steelworkers.

“I’m thrilled to see Jagmeet win the byelection in Burnaby South. This is a victory for working people, for the voters of Burnaby South and for all Canadians,” said Ken Neumann, USW National Director.

“The NDP leader has earned his seat in the House of Commons, and Canadians are eager to have him there. Despite all the petty Liberal tactics delaying this byelection, Jagmeet Singh has triumphed. He’s won his seat as a Member of Parliament. Residents of Burnaby South now have representation and Canadians have a voice they need in Parliament – an NDP Leader who will hold Justin Trudeau to account for all the broken Liberal promises and scandals,” said Neumann.

“Congratulations, Jagmeet. You have proved that you can connect with voters with your hard work, your caring and commitment to put people first. The issues you highlighted in this byelection also resonate on the national scene – housing affordability and universal pharmacare,” added Neumann.

Jagmeet Singh’s victory marks a change of tide. His win is historic and it gives people hope. It means much more than a new MP for Burnaby South. It means Jagmeet and the NDP can take on the naysayers. Jagmeet’s victory proves that voters are onside with his message that things can be better for ordinary people.

“The United Steelworkers is proud to stand with Jagmeet Singh as the only national leader calling for Parliament to refuse to ratify the new NAFTA agreement until the illegal U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum are lifted,” said Neumann.

“As NDP Leader and MP for Burnaby South, we look forward to having Jagmeet Singh in the House of Commons, as a strong and progressive voice for working people, on our side.

“The next election is an important one for working people across Canada who feel betrayed and let down by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. The NDP has always been the party of working people, and with Jagmeet Singh’s election as an NDP MP, our party is on the move to show that there is another choice – one that puts people first,” said Neumann.