Brunswick Smelter Workers Enter Seventh Week of Lockout

Steelworkers and Allies Hold Vigorous Mass Rally in Support of Glencore Workers in Belledune

On Tuesday, June 4, the Brunswick Smelter workers in Belledune, New Brunswick held a successful community rally in which over 300 workers and community members participated. The 280 smelter workers, members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 7085, have been locked out of their jobs since April 24 by mining/metallurgical giant Glencore, which owns the Belledune plant. Glencore management is trying to extort drastic anti-worker concessions from the workers and workers are resisting these demands with their stand "It's Our Turn! No Concessions!"

The aim of the rally was to mobilize support for the Belledune workers. Workers report that the support of the community and of all USW locals in the province and of other workers has been very strong since the beginning and they also wanted to thank the community and all the workers for their support.

The rally started outside the Belledune Recreation Centre at 2:00 pm. From there the participants filled two buses to go to the picket lines to protest there for about an hour while others went by car. When they were back at the centre, together with the kids who had finished school and been taken to the rally by their parents, there were about 300 people present for the concluding part of the event. There was a BBQ and live music and games for the kids while people talked to the locked out workers, getting more information about the issues and expressing their support. Besides the smelter workers, participants included the leadership of USW District 6, which covers Ontario and the Atlantic provinces, a strong contingent of CUPE workers, as well as workers belonging to industrial unions from around the province, and people from the community. Support from the community included businesses in the community providing food for all and games for the kids. At the time that had been alotted for speeches, the weather turned to pouring rain so the President of the Local, Bart Dempsey, thanked the community for their ongoing support and informed the people that the District 6 Director will send out letters to all the members providing his thoughts on the situation.

Workers report that Belledune is a closely-knit community of just under 2,000 people where many Brunswick smelter retirees live. The retirees know what the workers are going through and had themselves experienced in their active years. They are keeping the people informed about the issues. The community is aware that it has always been a struggle at the smelter, whether it was owned by Glencore, Xstrata or Falconbridge before Glencore. There is also awareness  of the anti-worker activities of the current management, especially in terms of health and safety. Those activities have been made public over the years as workers vigorously fought to defend healthy and safe conditions for themselves and the community.

Workers also report that they have now made a counter offer to the company on monetary issues. They have also earmarked some concessionary demands that they want off the table before going back to the bargaining table, including keeping the two positions of full-time President and full-time union safety representative and leaving the early retirement provisions alone. Workers are also demanding some increase for those who are on the defined contribution pension plan.[1]

"We are in our seventh week right now. We are still together and we are still strong. We are still demanding that those concessions be removed. And then we are willing to go back and finish out this contract. There has to be negotiation, not dictate," Bart Dempsey told Workers' Forum.


1. To learn more about the concessionary demands of Glencore in this dispute and the stand of the workers, read "Workers Stand Up for Their Rights and Dignity," Workers' Forum, May 2, 2019.

(Photos: USW District 6)

This article was published in

Number 21 - June 6, 2019

Article Link:
Brunswick Smelter Workers Enter Seventh Week of Lockout: Steelworkers and Allies Hold Vigorous Mass Rally in Support of Glencore Workers in Belledune


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