New Collective Agreement Ratified

A general membership meeting on July 2, attended by about 800 workers of the just over 900 still employed at the ABI smelter in Bécancour voted by a 79.8 per cent majority to ratify the latest contract offer of the Alcoa/Rio Tinto cartel. This put a formal end to the unjust 18-month lockout and blackmail of the cartel. Right to the end the cartel, and its nefarious partner in crime the Quebec government, refused to negotiate with the workers and instead flaunted yet another "final offer." This final offer came with the widely publicized threat that if workers rejected the contract then the smelter would be immediately closed for good.

Eighty-five percent of the workers will be recalled to work by January 1, 2020, and all workers will be recalled by April 1, 2020.

The workers were able to fend off some of the anti-worker concessions that the owners demanded in earlier final offers. For example, the back-to-work protocol is superior to what workers previously refused to accept last March 4. The agreed-to protocol provides for a fixed return to work period of six to eight months rather than the open-ended return of the rejected protocol, which the company could have extended or even eliminated at will. After five months, all workers not yet back to work will receive $635 per week from the company, non-refundable, until they are back on the job.

The company withdrew its concessionary demands on workers' seniority rights. The employer will not be able to offer positions to people outside the plant without first offering them to union members.

The number of jobs that can be outsourced is reduced compared to what was contained in the March 4 offer.

This also decreases the number of unionized positions that can be eliminated during the term of the new collective agreement.

The company softened its concessionary demand to reduce employer-paid union leave.

ABI management commits to an additional $8 million contribution to the new pension plan. The defined-benefit pension plan is being replaced by a member-funded pension plan, which is now in effect in several other aluminum smelters in Quebec. The workers manage the indexed plan and carry the risks of possible falling benefits. The company's initial request in 2018 was to impose a two-tier pension plan, keeping the current employees on their defined-benefit plan and placing future hires on a much inferior defined-contribution plan.

The company is withdrawing its $19 million grievance over damage alleged to have been caused by the workers in the plant during negotiations in 2017. The grievance, based on a total lie, was a clumsy attempt to intimidate the workers and their union and to justify the complete restructuring of the smelter. The so-called sabotage was never raised by the company during the time it was alleged to have happened.

The six-year contract contains cumulative wage increases totalling 15.3 per cent.

The relentless resistance of the workers and their union executive with the support of other workers and the community throughout the 18-month lockout resulted in the removal of certain concessions. Workers and their community are well aware of the damages the remaining concessions will do in lowering working standards at the smelter and putting downward pressure on the standard of living throughout the region. The global cartels of oligarchs that control the socialized economy and their representatives in government are using the immense social wealth they already control and the political power of neo-liberal governments to transfer more and more social value from production away from workers and their communities and into the coffers of the rich. The increasing transfer of produced social wealth from workers to the oligarchs assisted by their political flunkies is a problem the working class is taking up for solution.

This article was published in

Number 25 - July 18, 2019

Article Link:
New Collective Agreement Ratified


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