Alcoa in Australia and Its Global Campaign Against the Working Class

Australia is one of the largest bauxite producing countries in the world. Bauxite is the main ore used in the production of aluminum. Alcoa owns two bauxite mines, three alumina refineries and an aluminum smelter in Australia, as well as port facilities. Alcoa sought and obtained a judgment from the Australian industrial relations tribunal in 2018 that declared null and void the collective agreement covering 1,500 Alcoa workers. The spurious reasons presented and accepted by the state institution are that the collective agreement dealing with terms of employment does not give Alcoa the "flexibility" required to compete on global markets. This effectively denies Australian Alcoa workers and their union their right to a say regarding their wages and working conditions.

In Quebec, tremendous hydro-electric capacity exists because of the natural water resource and its transformation into electricity through the ingenuity and hard work of the Quebec working people. Plentiful electricity is the essential circulating value to produce aluminum. Smelter workers are the essential human factor.

Alcoa uses the self-serving issue of flexibility and competition with other global oligopolies to demand that the ABI smelter operations in Quebec be restructured without interference or agreement with those who produce the aluminum and their local union or their government representatives.

The global oligopoly has a contract with Hydro-Québec for preferential industrial rates for a block of energy set aside for it. During the lockout Alcoa is refusing to pay for this on the grounds of "force majeure," i.e. a situation beyond its control. The Quebec government is going along with this fraud which means that it is the people of Quebec, through the loss of income to Hydro-Québec, who are financing the lockout.

Raising flexibility and competition is meant to give some cover to Alcoa's self-serving campaign to lower the working and living conditions of the smelter workers and operate the plant without the union and the workers having a say or any right to decide those issues that concern their well-being and security. This has the singular purpose of increasing the value the owners of Alcoa can expropriate from the work of ABI workers and the transferred-value it consumes from Hydro-Québec and other local sources. In this way, Alcoa and other owners of the smelter will increase the added-value they can expropriate and take out of Quebec for use elsewhere in the world.

This article was published in

Number 13 - April 11, 2019

Article Link:
Alcoa in Australia and Its Global Campaign Against the Working Class


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