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,
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,
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
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
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
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
New Collective Agreement Ratified