April 11, 2019
Lockout at the
ABI Smelter in Bécancour, Quebec
Launch Global Campaign
to Force Alcoa to Negotiate a Collective Agreement Acceptable to the
Local 9700 President Clément Masse speaks to USW policy
Vancouver, April 4, 2019.
Premier Legault Blames ABI Workers for Causing Government Cutbacks to
• Alcoa in Australia and Its Global Campaign
Against the Working Class
• Quebec Nurses Hold Successful "No Mandatory
Overtime" Day of Action
• The Neo-Liberal Logic of Permanent
Exceptionalism to Criminalize the Struggles of Quebec Public Sector
Workers - Pierre
• Interview - Éric Tremblay,
President, Health Care
Professionals Union of East Montreal (FIQ)
The Fight for Proper
Working Conditions in the Trucking Industry
• March 21 -- Fifth Anniversary of Vancouver
Defending the Rights
of Injured Workers
• Coming Events
Lockout at the ABI Smelter in
United Steelworkers policy conference delegates on their feet in
support of the locked-out Bécancour aluminum smelter workers,
April 4, 2019.
The United Steelworkers National Policy Conference held
Vancouver from April 2 to 5, announced a worldwide campaign against the
Alcoa/Rio Tinto cartel lockout of ABI aluminum smelter workers in
Bécancour, Quebec. The lockout has now lasted 15 months. The USW
demands the cartel end the lockout and negotiate a collective
agreement acceptable to the workers. The global campaign will focus on
exposing the anti-worker practices of Alcoa, which owns 75 per cent of
USW International President Leo Gerard pledged to
in the countries where Alcoa has facilities, suppliers and customers to
force the company to give up its dictate against ABI workers and to
begin negotiations. Action began when a USW delegation from Canada
attended the National Conference of the Australian Workers' Union on
April 7-9. The delegation included USW Canadian Director Ken Neumann
and two representatives of the ABI workers, including Local 9700
President Clément Masse. Quebec Steelworkers Director Alain
Croteau also announced that locked-out ABI workers will travel to
Pittsburgh on May 8 to intervene at the Alcoa shareholders' meeting.
United Steelworkers delegation participates in National Conference of
Workers' Union, April 7-9, 2019.
Clément Masse delivered a speech to the more than
600 delegates at the USW Vancouver conference explaining that at no
time since the beginning of the dispute has ABI management negotiated
with the union representing the ABI workers. Masse said that every
offer from ABI management has
been presented as "final" and that the workers must take it
or suffer the consequences of a lockout. None of these final offers was
the result of negotiations between the two parties. The most recent
"final offer" presented in March gave the axe to all the working
conditions currently in the collective agreement, be it the pension
plan, the number of unionized jobs, the hours of work, the organization
work, and union leave, Masse said. Alcoa amended the terms of the
agreement so as to give the power to ABI executives to make the changes
it wished without the union being able to challenge them, bypassing the
established process of filing grievances. The same was true of the
back-to-work protocol, which had never been discussed with the
union. The dictated protocol, which workers massively voted down, was
one-sided to the extent the company gave itself the right to suspend or
even cancel it at any time.
Clément Masse (centre) at Vancouver policy conference, April 4,
2019, with United Steelworkers Canadian Director Ken Neumann (left) and
Quebec Steelworkers Director Alain Croteau.
"They took a position to break the union, to attack the
heart of our
union," Clément Masse told delegates. "We are a strong union
stands up to the employer. We confront the employer when needed and we
have been fighting all the while to uphold our collective agreement and
make sure that our members are respected. With this offer
from the employer, we could no longer do our union work. This is not
just a fight for us. I think this attack on our union is an attack on
the whole labour movement in Quebec and in Canada. If the employer
breaks us, the employers will take this as a model and try to spread it
all over Quebec and across Canada. We will never stop fighting. We
are asking for your support and we will ask you again. We will fight
until we get a negotiated contract with our employer."
Following his speech, delegates came to the microphone
to announce financial support from their local or district. Many used
the opportunity to add to the financial support they already provide.
According to the Steelworkers, approximately $100,000 in financial
support was raised at the conference. Several delegations took
financial support application forms provided by the conference for use
in their regions in organizing a vote in favour of additional financial
The Workers' Union at the Coca-Cola's Bottling Plant
(STECSA) in Guatemala sent a cheque of $1,000 to support the ABI
workers. STECSA recalled that international support for their struggle
was critical when they faced the most violent repression in the 1980s
and after from the company, the oligarchy and its police, army and
paramilitary forces. The number of union locals providing financial
support to ABI workers now stands at more than 400 in Quebec, Canada,
the United States, Australia and now Guatemala.
The Quebec Legault government is continuing attacks on
ABI workers and their union which favour the Alcoa global cartel.
Premier Legault was asked in the National Assembly about previous
statements blaming the union for the lockout and giving unqualified
support for Alcoa's attacks on workers and the use of a phoney "force
majeure" to skip out on paying for its allotted electricity from
Hydro-Québec. Legault responding with an astounding
statement according to which ABI workers in Bécancour are
partly to blame for his government's cutbacks of social programs and
public services! According to Legault, the determined resistance of the
ABI workers to Alcoa's attacks on their rights and their refusal to
submit to the dictate of the cartel for concessions is depriving the
state of tax revenue that is needed to fund social programs and
alleviate poverty! Turning truth on its head he does not hold the
company to account for refusing to negotiate in good faith. He blames
the workers' resistance to the attack on their rights.
If ABI workers lose their well-paid jobs by being
this dispute, they have only themselves to blame, Legault is quoted as
saying. Such slanderous statements only serve to convince the ABI
workers and their allies that their struggle is also directed against
those governments that are using the public treasury and police powers
serve global monopolies such as Alcoa and Rio Tinto in opposition to
the rights, security and well-being of their own working people and
Legault's words attacking the integrity and rights of
workers, and his slavish devotion to a foreign global oligopoly, which
wants the unbridled right to exploit the human and natural resources of
the nation and abscond with even more value than it takes today, have
earned him the scorn of working people. He has proved himself unfit
to govern and useless as a representative of the interests of the
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
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
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
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
increasing the value the owners of Alcoa can expropriate from the work
of ABI workers and the transferred-value it consumes from
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.
The Fight for Proper Working Conditions
in Health Care
Health care workers at Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital in Montreal are
community supporters, with banner reading "Nurses Angry -- Citizens In
Solidarity!" April 8, 2019.
"There is no turning back!"
Some 76,000 nurses, licensed practical nurses,
respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists, members of the
Quebec Interprofessional Health Federation (FIQ) held a successful "No
Mandatory Overtime" day of action on April 8, as its members performed
no mandatory overtime during the day of action. This proves the health
care system can operate without mandatory overtime, noted FIQ President
Nancy Bédard. Moreover, use of mandatory overtime as a regular
practice can be ended if the government and management at health care
facilities take adequate measures on the basis of proposals put forward
by the nurses themselves.
Banner outside hospital in Bas St. Laurent, April 8, 2019.
Early in the morning, the banner "Mandatory Overtime Has
Gone On Long
Enough" was hoisted in front of a large number of health facilities in
several of Quebec's regions, with nurses standing by their union flag
before entering work. The banner was also unfurled on many bridges
overlooking traffic. Citizen actions in support of the day's
event were organized in Montreal, Quebec City and Drummondville in
front of health facilities where participants held banners reading
"Nurses Angry -- Citizens In Solidarity! The Canadian Union of Public
Employees, which has 25,000 members who work in the Quebec health and
social services network and are also experiencing the turmoil of
mandatory overtime, expressed its support for the nurses' day of action.
Banner hangs on overpass in Abitibi-Temiscamingue.
Over the years, the practice of mandatory overtime has
into a system of management by governments and administrations. At
press briefings throughout the day the nurses reiterated their demands,
which if met, could put an end to the practice. A first demand is to
abolish mandatory overtime except in the case of an unforeseen
emergency. This action must become a priority for the government and
health facility administrations, which is not the case at present.
Through the anti-social offensive that successive
imposed in health care for the benefit of private interests, the human
factor represented by hundreds of thousands of health care workers has
been denied and seen as a cost and a burden on the health care system.
Thousands of jobs have been permanently abolished.
The use of mandatory overtime has become a chronic form of management,
regardless of the devastating effects on staff and patients. The
priority must change, nurses say, so that the working conditions
change, which also change their living conditions. For this to take
place, a massive and targeted reinvestment in the health system is
specific portion of which must be devoted to the working conditions of
health care professionals.
Nurses are calling for an upgrade of positions. Overtime
work exist side by side. It is unacceptable, they say, that a shortage
of manpower is being invoked to justify mandatory overtime when so many
nurses are currently working only about two days a week.
Upgrading jobs to full-time
or four-day a week positions is an
immediate measure that would significantly reduce mandatory overtime.
Nurses are calling for job upgrades on a stable basis, not by rotation
where they would be constantly moved from one institution to another,
possibly even over long distances. That would be unacceptable for
nurses and patients, and would not attract young people to join the
ranks of nurses. According to the FIQ, the Lanaudière region
upgraded all of its nursing positions to four days a week to avoid the
use of mandatory overtime during the week and the results are already
Nurses are also demanding safe nurse-to-patient ratios,
which would stabilize the situation and reduce reliance on mandatory
On the April 8 day of action, nurses broke the code of
oppressing them by waging this courageous action and have strongly
impressed public opinion. They have forcefully reiterated and put into
practice what is supposed to be official policy that mandatory overtime
is an exceptional emergency measure, which ultimately must be left up
to the nurse, the only person who can judge whether he or she is able
that service or not. Indeed, the nurses' Code of Ethics includes the
obligation to take reasonable action to ensure the continuity of care
and treatment as well as the duty to refrain from practicing their
profession when in a state that is liable to impair the quality of care
All of this was brought to the public's attention
through the day of
action. Nurses are determined that there is no turning back from their
Maisonneuve-Rosemont hospital, Montreal
Montreal, West Island
Montreal Cardiology Institute
Mauricie and Central Quebec Region
Bas St. Laurent
Health care workers in the Quebec City Region participate in April
8, 2019 day of action.
No sooner had the Quebec nurses' union announced that
on April 8,
nurses would collectively refuse to accept mandatory overtime, they
were summoned to appear before the Labour Tribunal. The tribunal was
formed in January 2016 as the result of a merger between the Commission
des lésions professionnelles and the Commission des
relations de travail. The tribunal presents itself as fostering,
"amicable settlement of disputes through its conciliation service."
The tribunal sits in four divisions: labour relations,
occupational health and safety, essential services, and the
construction industry and occupational qualification. It has "remedial
authority" under a clause in the Labour
Code, which states that the tribunal may intervene "if it is of
the opinion that a conflict could jeopardize or is clearly liable to
jeopardize a service to which the public is entitled." This clause is
at the heart of all the special legislation passed since the adoption
of the Labour Code in 1964
and which became even more repressive in the 1980s with the onset of
the neo-liberal offensive.
As in most cases involving collective actions by
hospital workers and teachers, the state labour tribunals intervene in
a totally one-sided manner against the workers. In contrast, the
never seem to be compelled to intervene with the everyday deterioration
of the health and education sectors and the working conditions of those
involved due to government cutbacks and other anti-social actions.
The tribunals activate themselves whenever collective
undertaken or planned whereby workers seek to find solutions to the
problems they and their sector face and to demand improvement in their
working conditions and the quality of the health and educational
services they provide.
With regards more specifically to nurses' working
state intervention, the government jumped to pass Bill 160 following a
two-day non-consecutive strike by nurses in 1986. The government said
it was intervening in the name of providing essential services in a
strike situation. Bill 160 compelled the unions to ensure 90 per cent
of the nursing staff was on the job. This number is over and above what
hospitals provide in terms of staffing all year long. More nurses were
compelled to provide services while on strike than during a normal work
In the case of refusing mandatory overtime, the
Board in 1998 forbade nurses to refuse to do overtime while their
collective agreement was still in force. Problem is, when the time
comes to renew the collective agreement, the legal and criminalizing
constraints are so great as to render actual "good faith" negotiating
impossible and any collective action ineffective.
The University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) undertook a
study in 2014 on the use and impact of special legislation in Quebec.
sponsored by all the major unions in Quebec, pointed out that public
sector workers were hardest hit by the criminalization of workers'
conclusion, the report says with regards to labour relations a "logic
of permanent exceptionalism" prevails. It states: "Special legislation,
used as a sword of Damocles, is now seen as a normal mechanism of
managing conflicts in society. There must be a public debate on their
impact on the right to negotiate and the right to strike, which itself
not recognized in the Quebec or Canadian Charter of Rights and
1. Research into special
legislation in Quebec, by Martin Petitclerc and Martin Robert.
Forum: How was the No Mandatory Overtime action in your area?
Tremblay: The day was very successful. There was no mandatory
overtime worked in our area and we are 4,300 health care professionals,
nurses, licensed practical nurses and respiratory therapists. It's a
first. So far, mandatory overtime has been used 350 times in our area
since January. Our day of action shows that when the employer is
willing to make an effort, it's possible to avoid mandatory overtime.
There must be good planning. When we are shortstaffed, it can be
difficult to find people to fill in, so management uses mandatory
overtime to keep the same people on shift, the easiest thing for them
We hoisted our banner
"Mandatory Overtime Has Gone On
over Autoroute 25 to notify the public that we were holding a day
without mandatory overtime. There was a citizens' demonstration in
front of the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital with the banner "Nurses
Angry -- Citizens in Solidarity!"
WF: Can you briefly explain what problems
are caused by mandatory overtime in your area?
For years we've had budget cuts and management hired part-time
workers. They are starting to hire for full-time jobs again, but a lot
of workers don't want them because they're worried that if they work
five days, they will end up doing five days with mandatory overtime.
They fear being held hostage longer and more frequently.
Mandatory overtime causes a lot of problems for workers
as well as
patients. It affects alertness, causes fatigue, burnout. We have a huge
rate of absenteeism. If I'm not mistaken, we're close to a rate of 15
per cent for long-term disability absenteeism in the Montreal's east
end. We're not talking about day-to-day life here, about calling in
for the day. Burnout is largely the result of mandatory overtime.
When they cannot find someone for mandatory overtime,
the workload. If you're in the emergency room, for example, and you
have to take care of eight patients instead of four, you cannot be as
vigilant. The ratios are smaller in the emergency department, because
the cases and care are complex, it requires greater vigilance. This
is where the issue of safe care comes in. This means that at some
point, the patient may not be receiving the proper treatment or may not
receive it within the required time frame. Let's take the example of a
Long-Term Health Care Facility (CHSLD ) where there is instability,
where people are tired, and the ratio is increased to the point that at
times a nurse could have 75 patients. You are supposed to give people
their medication at 8 am, but how can you do that if you have 75
patients to take care of? One patient may receive medication at 11 am
and another at noon. The interval for the medication is not respected.
Medication is not meant to be taken in this haphazard manner. So the
population is also being held hostage with regard to their care.
WF: What are you proposing to remedy the
ET: We have
proposed a work-time reorganization. It’s a project initiated by us,
which would be applied to the eastern part of the island. It’s an
eight-day work schedule covering a two-week period, with full-time
conditions, meaning a bank of sick days, a full-time pension, benefits,
etc. We would work two four-day weeks with a weekday off. Anything over
eight days of work in that two-week period would be paid overtime.
Right now the project is being tested in the emergency department. The
employer is open to it, but for the moment is not ready to pay overtime
beginning on the ninth day. People working in emergency are keen on it.
It’s not full-time work. It’s more than part-time, with employees being
given full-time conditions.
WF: Do you want to say something in
"Mandatory overtime is the problem,
never the solution."
ET: We are asking all workers to support
because it is their cause. What we provide are services. This not a
commercial enterprise. People have the right to good quality services.
That's why we have ratio projects, to determine how many patients a
nurse should have to be able to provide quality care. Where ratio
projects are being tested, where the workload has been lightened, it
has been demonstrated that there are fewer injuries; patients are left
alone for less time, particularly in CHSLDs. The same goes for
intensive care, if you have safe care, chances are you will recover
more quickly; there is less chance of error, etc. There are investments
to be made
at the beginning to ensure savings further down the line.
Under current conditions, the employer has every
interest in keeping
the problems under wraps. There is a hidden understanding that your job
is at risk if you reveal what the employer is doing. We defend the
right of our members to say what is happening. To date, we have had 10
disciplinary warnings for refusing to do mandatory overtime.
Yet our code of ethics says that if you are exhausted and do not feel
that you able to work, that you may put people at risk, you have the
right not to accept. We are contesting all the disciplinary warnings.
If we work without mandatory overtime, it's a win-win
situation for all.
The Fight for Proper Working Conditions
in the Trucking Industry
March 21 marked the fifth anniversary of the Vancouver
truckers' strike in which 500 Unifor union truckers united with the
1,500 truckers of Punjabi origin who were members of the United Workers
Association (ATU). Together, they defeated the Vancouver Port
Authority, the Christy Clark government in British Columbia and the
federal government of Stephen Harper and his infamous Minister of
Transport Lisa Raitt. It was a great success for Canadian truckers.
This struggle continues to inspire truckers today, in the context of a
new offensive whereby migrant or foreign workers are hired with the aim
of increasing the exploitation of all truckers and preventing standards
being set for the industry according to the needs of the drivers. The
way forward for this contingent of the working class continues to be
the one they took five years ago -- to unite in action to defend the
rights of all truckers in Canada, regardless of their national origin.
Defending the Rights of Injured Workers
Injured Workers Outreach Forum
April 10 – 6:00-8:30 pm
Sir Isaac Brock Blvd, Thorold
Hosted by Niagara Injured
Injured Workers Outreach Event
April 11 – 4:00-6:00 pm
611 Silvercreek Parkway
Hosted by Injured Workers of Wellington and Dufferin Counties
Workers’ Comp Is a Right!
Tuesday, May 14
As part of the ongoing Workers’ Comp Is a Right
Campaign a pan-Ontario Day of action
is being organized for May 14 with actions planned in Windsor, St
Thunder Bay, Guelph, Manitoulin, and Toronto and more cities expected
For information as it becomes available
36th Annual Ontario Injured Workers’ Day
Women of Inspiration Vigil
Friday, May 31 -- 4:00 pm to Saturday, June 1
-- 9:00 am
For information as it becomes available click
Ontario Injured Workers’
Saturday, June 1
For information as it becomes available click
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