March 14, 2019
Reject Alcoa's Dictated Contract
and Back-to-Work Protocol
90 Per Cent
Turnout, 82 Per Cent Rejection of Company Contract at
Want a Negotiated Contract Not One-Sided Company Dictate
• The Workers' Demand for an
Dictate - Pierre Chénier
Letter to the
• A Lockout Is Not a "Force
- Montérégie Metallurgical Worker
BC Rail Tragedy
Other Train Derailments
• Canadian Pacific's Reckless Move
• Rail Workers Defend Their Rights
- Peggy Askin
• Arbitrator Issues Cease and Desist
CP Rail - Teamsters Canada
• Growing Number of Rail
Criminalizes Workers' Just Claims
• Provincial Government and Court of
Bench Declare Nursing Home Workers' Strike Illegal -
Interview, Simon Ouellette, Communications Representative, CUPE
ABI Workers Reject Alcoa's Dictated
Contract and Back-to-Work Protocol
Smelter workers at
Aluminerie de Bécancour Inc. (ABI) held a general
meeting on March 11, to discuss and vote on the latest contract
of the Alcoa/Rio Tinto cartel. Eight hundred and thirty-one union
members participated in the meeting out of a current membership
After serious discussion and presentations,
the 831 members in attendance voted 82 per cent to reject the
proposed collective agreement. The workers, who have been locked
the company for 14 long months, also rejected a company
protocol that had not been negotiated with the local union.
The President of USW Local 9700, Clément
gave his impressions of the meeting to Workers' Forum:
"The workers said that this is not a negotiated
agreement and accepting such an agreement is like saying you do
have a union anymore, that the employer can do whatever it wants.
offer that the employer presented shows a lack of respect for us
is the same as regards the back-to-work protocol. We have built
union and we
have built our contracts over the years, and we do not agree that
should lose everything because the employer wants to smash the
That is what came out of the interventions at the mic; that we
still able to stand up and will not accept just anything even
months. It is not true that the employer can impose its way of
things on us. They will have to sit down and negotiate and show
for the workers. The workers have also targeted the energy deal
Alcoa that is hurting us and doing nothing but prolonging the
The union president also made the following
a statement issued by the Quebec Steelworkers on the evening of
"The offer represented a series of take-backs by
company. ABI has refused to negotiate, it has refused to accept
third-party arbitration. It just wanted to impose its will,
fatigue from its 14-month lockout. The answer from our members is
clear: it didn't work. The members don't want to go back on their
knees. Alcoa disrespects our Labour
Code by negotiating in bad faith, it disrespects
making them pay for its lockout, it disrespects workers by
door on negotiation as well as arbitration. The government of
must intervene. The imbalance of power is unacceptable and the
behaviour of this multinational is unacceptable."
ABI smelter workers, March 1, 2019, outside Premier Legault's
USW Local 9700 called a vote on the latest company
contract to ensure every member had a say and vote on the matter
14 months of lockout. Steelworkers pointed out that the offer and
accompanying back-to-work protocol are worse than what had been
negotiated before the January 2018 lockout was imposed, when only
points were in dispute.
the current offer, or rather dictate, is vastly inferior to what
previously been negotiated regarding work organization,
pension fund, respect for seniority, the use of subcontracting
abolition of unionized positions. The so-called back-to-work
had never even been discussed with the union and could only be
considered disrespectful to workers and their rights. It demanded
return to work be spread over a period of 10 months, which could
extended according to various pretexts. During this time,
subcontractors could occupy the positions of unionized
"Such a prolonged return-to-work period is
unprecedented," Local 9700 President Clément Masse said.
principle of a return-to-work protocol is to negotiate the
the conflict. This protocol does the opposite, it sets fires. By
comparison, following a labour dispute in 2004, everyone was back
the plant within six
The union members made it clear during the
with their vote that they do not want to go back to work under
conditions, even after a difficult 14 months of lockout and a
period full of uncertainty.
Workers' Forum greatly respects the
the ABI workers to reject the company dictate. The courage and
determination of the ABI workers to defend their rights in the
a powerful international force and a spineless government that
to do its duty and protect its own people, gives heart to
Quebec and Canada who are fed up with the current one-sided state
affairs between employees and employers.
Workers' Forum congratulates all those
the country who have come forward to support the locked-out ABI
in many ways. The Alcoa/Rio Tinto cartel is not invincible but
struggle demands the active stepped-up support of all workers and
allies throughout the country. The determination of the organized
working class can win this battle for its rights, respect and
employment agreeable to those who do the work and produce the
An alternative to the current direction of
workers and society by the global cartels must be found. The
denial of rights within this dictatorship of powerful
cartels is unacceptable in a modern society. People have rights
virtue of being human. Companies, no matter how dominant they
become in their sector, cannot be allowed to violate the rights
employees or others in society. Governments have a duty and
responsibility to stand up and defend their citizens.
The Alcoa/Rio Tinto
and dictate of terms of employment are not only an attack on ABI
workers but on all members of a civilized society. Employees must
accorded the respect they deserve as producers of the social
that companies crave and which the people, economy and society
for their existence. Respect and rights mean that workers must
organized say and control over their terms of employment
wages and benefits they are paid for their capacity to work and
working conditions at work. The terms of employment cannot be the
pragmatic product of what the company says it wants and needs to
compete in the global market. A collective agreement worthy of
must be negotiated in an organized and respectful manner with the
representatives of the workers, and must gain the consent of
and be beneficial for the workers, not just provide the company
says it wants and needs.
Modern workers refuse to be humiliated and have
rights violated. The Alcoa/Rio Tinto cartel is apparently drunk
global strength of its operations and thinks that it can do
wants without being held to account. This can be seen in its
of negotiations and imposition of a lockout even though the
proposed contract of 2018 were minor. The cartel has something
mind such as the complete destruction of the local union and any
benefits, security and stability workers and their community have
gained through previous contracts.
The arrogance of the cartel can also be seen in
it declared the lockout it had engineered as a "force majeure"
its control. In this way it refuses to pay for the block of
Hydro-Québec produces and has set aside for the cartel at
preferential rates. It can be seen in the apparent ease in which
compliance of the Quebec government for the lockout and the fraud
The Quebec government for its part refuses to
its duty to its citizens and hold the cartel to account even
Quebec workers and Quebec hydroelectric power are the human and
resource that the cartel needs for its aluminum operations not
Bécancour but elsewhere in Quebec and likewise in western
An alternative to the dictate of the global
oligarchy is not difficult to imagine but difficult to bring into
precisely because of the power, social wealth and political
cartels have amassed. The alternative has to come from the
strength and determination of the working class, which ABI
spades. This particular struggle can be won but everyone must
involved and raise their voices and intensify their active and
conscious participation in the ABI workers' resistance to the
their rights. The Quebec government must be denounced and
isolated as a
vile sellout of the Quebec people and nation. What kind of
is this that refuses to hold a global cartel to account and
allows it to abuse not only its employees but the Quebec people
their hydroelectric infrastructure?
Let us all redouble our support and active
participation in the struggle of the ABI workers for their rights
against the dictate of the global oligarchs. An alternative to
must be found! This struggle can be won!
I read with interest the article in the March 7
of Workers' Forum "Workers Demand Legault Government Make
Meet Its Commitments on Energy Contract." I am closely following
lockout at ABI and I also think that it is fraudulent to consider
lockout as a "force majeure," "an unforeseeable, irresistible
beyond the control of a Party," which in this case is Alcoa. As
article says, the lockout is a planned operation to attack the
conditions and the union.
I think one of the
moments that showed that the lockout is planned was what happened
March 8, 2018. After having liquidated in a few minutes what was
a negotiation session between the two parties in the presence of
mediator, ABI's management issued a statement saying:
"Representatives of the Bécancour Smelter
management met with USW Local 9700 today, informing them that the
needs fundamental changes to achieve long-term success. The
took place in the presence of Mr. Jean Nolin, the conciliator
by the Ministry of Labour.
"The constant objectives of ABI management during
year's long negotiations were to ensure the sustainability of the
and to reach a negotiated agreement. However, the union's
tactics during these negotiations have caused a significant
deterioration of the operating conditions in the plant, creating
hazards for employees,
putting the products at risk, threatening the supply of customers
negatively affecting the financial performance.
"The union's rejection of a fair and competitive
left ABI management with no choice but to take steps to protect
employees and the assets of the plant. Consequently, the rejected
can no longer serve as a basis for a future settlement.
"ABI is not as competitive as it should be and
situation needs to be improved to succeed in the long term.
"As a result, ABI's operational structure needs
re-evaluated with the goal of significantly improving
workforce organization to ensure consistency for its
If this is not a planned operation to attack the
working conditions and the union, then what is it?
In this press release, ABI management is trying
two birds with one stone.
It declares the end of its previous offer, which
have led to a settlement through negotiations, and signals that
its aim is a complete restructuring of the ABI operation. At the
time it claims, after the fact, that its lockout was justified
the workers had sabotaged production and machinery and endangered
the lives of the employees when they were at work months before
lockout! And, it should be noted, this "sabotage" was never
the time, when the workers were at work.
In this press release, Alcoa is therefore trying
present the lockout as a defensive measure on its part against a
concocted "force majeure," the so-called sabotage by the workers
justify its decision that its offer is no longer valid and that
carry out a complete restructuring of the place at the expense of
working conditions and the union!
This is illogical. It can certainly be said that rationality is
strong point of ABI management, but it cannot be said that the
was not planned. From the beginning, Alcoa has had a hidden
has been revealed more and more clearly ever since.
The Quebec government should not try to compete
ABI management over which has the more fraudulent arguments of
The Alcoa/Rio Tinto cartel has to pay for the block of energy
set aside for it. This lockout is not a "force majeure." If the
government takes the side of the Quebeckers who it claims to
put pressure on the Alcoa/Rio Tinto cartel to finally negotiate
the lockout can end in a manner acceptable to the workers.
BC Rail Tragedy and Other Train
Train derailment in Calgary, March 9, 2019.
Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) announced on March 8
appeal of Transport Canada's Ministerial Order requiring the
application of handbrakes to secure a train when stopped on a
grade. According to CP, the Railway Association of Canada and
National (CN) are also appealing the Ministerial Order issued on
February 8, in the wake of the
tragedy that occurred 4 days earlier.
The disaster in question took the lives of
Dylan Paradis, engineer Andrew Dockrell and trainee Daniel
Waldenberger-Bulmer. Their 112-car CP grain train sped out of
down a track in the Rocky Mountains and derailed. The train had
stopped on a mountain grade for two hours to address mechanical
problems controlling the speed of the train. During the stop,
brakes were applied. The train began to move and accelerated to a
in excess of the maximum track speed and derailed.
The Transportation Safety Board investigation
that no handbrakes had been applied. Transport Canada's February
Ministerial Order requires operators of trains halted in an
stop on a mountain grade to apply a sufficient number of
prevent the train from moving.
Railway workers have long demanded more be done
secure trains and protect their lives and those of the public.
support the Ministerial Order regarding the application of
They see this move as part of their fight to get to the heart of
problem of recurring accidents. This includes a public
phenomenon of trains speeding out of control. They call for the
establishment of a public authority that enforces rail safety in
workers who have direct knowledge and experience of the industry
say and control.
CP, in an uncouth and arrogant manner, announced
appeal of the Ministerial Order under the guise that the
handbrakes will introduce "additional risks" and "unintended
consequences." CP advocates "safer options" yet remains silent on
options or what the additional risks and unintended consequences
handbrakes are used.
Railway workers surmise that CP may be referring
potential risks for conductors in moving along the train in an
unfavorable environment in order to apply handbrakes. They say
dangers, although real, cannot be compared with those of a train
speeding out of control after starting to roll on its own.
In an article dated March 1, the Globe and
reports Transport Canada held a briefing with the industry and
at the end of February during which CP spoke on the need for
measures that do not hamper operations by delaying traffic.
to the Globe article, CP
allegedly does not want time consuming
such as applying hand brakes. It wants to keep the trains moving
This has always been the pragmatic bottom line
of the rail companies to secure increased private profit
the consequences for workers and communities along rail lines.
private profit as the aim and driving force of the industry, the
railway companies have long pushed self-regulation in concert
governments. This pragmatism for private profit has been shown in
practice to be a disaster for the safety of workers and the
Train derailments keep happening and are actually on the rise
Canada. Railway workers and their allies across Canada are firmly
opposed to the unacceptable anti-social direction of
industry and demand an alternative that favours the people. The
application of handbrakes on slopes is one measure in this
Train derailment, Carlos, Minnesota, March 1, 2019.
Railway workers continue to speak out to defend
rights and safety and demand solutions to deal with the extreme
they face on a daily basis. Four significant derailments of CP
occurred recently. These derailments took place only one month
the death of three rail workers when a train derailed close to
Tunnels near Field, BC and plunged into the Kicking Horse
The most recent
four derailments began on February 28, when a freight train
grain and empty automobile carriers left the tracks just west of
Banff Alberta town site. The next day, more than two dozen cars
of a CP
train carrying grain and potash derailed just south of Carlos,
Minnesota, and on March 2, a number of cars
carrying diesel and grain left the rails as they crossed a bridge
the Kicking Horse River, in virtually the same spot where the
workers were killed in January. On March 9, another train
the Ogden Yards in Calgary with multiple train cars leaving the
Christopher Monette, spokesperson for the
Canada Railway Conference (TCRC) told the Calgary Herald that workers
are raising concerns about the potentially dangerous effect on
trains of a recent stretch of bitterly cold weather. "Workers are
telling us the trains are becoming harder to control in cold
particularly for locomotives operating in especially frigid
and difficult terrain through the mountain passes.
Monette also said another potential catastrophe
narrowly avoided on the same stretch of track through the Spiral
Tunnels where the accident occurred that killed the three workers
month. The engineer of a 109-car grain train had to apply the
brakes to stop an out-of-control westbound locomotive.
Rail safety is a matter of life and death the
points out but CP has failed to make any changes in policy since
Field derailment. CP is even fighting against taking precautions
the investigation of the causes of the fatal crash is
Shortly after the fatal Field disaster, Transport
Canada Minister Marc Garneau issued a ministerial order. The
"When a train is stopped by an emergency brake
application on a grade of 1.8 per cent or greater (i.e. mountain
grade), immediately apply a sufficient number of handbrakes, in
accordance with the attached Appendix A, before recharging the
brake system to prevent involuntary movement of the
The Transportation Safety Board senior
James Carmichael confirmed that the fatal crash was not due to
the crew did, and that the train started to move on its own.
going to try to determine why the brakes didn't stay in place,"
The TCRC fully supported the order. "We can't be
any chances until the exact causes of this tragic derailment are
determined. You can't put a price tag on rail safety -- it's a
of life and death," said Don Ashley, National Legislative
But putting a price tag on the lives of workers
public safety is exactly what CP is doing. CP Rail has appealed
order, claiming the application of handbrakes, "introduces
risks and will have unintended consequences" without clarifying
those consequences may be or what should be done in the meantime.
Association of Canada representing companies involved in the
CN itself are also appealing the Ministerial Order.
Rail workers have direct experience with
conditions in addition to having access to scientific opinion
their union. They are in the best position to assess whether a
will enhance safety or not. CP has dismissed the informed
of the workers about this particular precaution of applying
presenting a shred of evidence as to why the measure should not
taken. Canadians should raise their voices in solidarity with
workers who continue to defend their safety and that of the
within the rail industry.
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC)
the following on its website on March 9, 2019.
Sisters & Brothers,
In March of 2018 Arbitrator Clarke ruled in
the systemic Over Hours violations that go to the core of rail
employees' rest and work-life balance.
The arbitrator accordingly declares that CP has
violated the collective agreement.
The TCRC has further convinced the arbitrator to
a cease and desist order given the high number of examples, even
CP's own numbers and explanations, when employees' right to be
within 10 hours has not been respected. This cease and desist
applies as well to those employees who are entitled to be in and
within 12 hours.
We Need Your Help!
Sadly, but not surprisingly the company has begun
disrespect your right to be off duty within 10 or 12 hours. The
has no intention of allowing this to go unchallenged. With that
we need your help to document the violations. Please fill out
each time you are forced over your hours."
Note: Work-rest rules for rail workers require
operating employees who go off-duty after being on-duty in excess
hours will be off duty for:
a) at the home terminal -- be subject to at least
continuous hours off-duty, 'exclusive' of call time if
except for yard service employees returning to their regular
will be subject to at least 8 continuous hours off-duty,
call time if applicable; and
b) at other than the home terminal -- be subject
least 6 continuous hours off-duty, 'exclusive' of call time if
5.2.2 At the home terminal, mandatory off-duty
shall commence at the point where the operating employee goes
and at other than the home terminal, mandatory off-duty time
commence upon arrival at the accommodations provided by the
5.2.3 When the off-duty time between any shifts
tours of duty is less than three hours and the combined on-duty
such shifts or tours of duty is in excess of 10 hours, then the
provisions of subsection 5.2.1 apply at the time the operating
employees last go off-duty. The off-duty time between such shifts
tours of duty are not to be
included in the calculation of on-duty time.
The number of rail accidents in Canada increased
1,091 to 1,170 in 2017, higher than the five-year average of
according to the Transportation Safety Board. Accidents involving
dangerous goods increased nine per cent to 125 from 115, with six
resulting in the release of dangerous materials. This is of great concern to the
workers and to public safety. But to the financial oligarchy it
another story. Responding to a preliminary report from the
Transportation Safety Board, RBC Capital Markets analyst wrote in
research report, "All said, we believe that the statistics are
encouraging in many important areas,
thereby suggesting that the railroads are operating at a high
CP claims that it takes appropriate measures to
safety during extreme cold, but its own statistics reveal that
a fraudulent claim.
CP's White Paper, Railroading in the Canadian
states that cold weather speeds up the rate of air leakage from
brake system, and that speed should be reduced in frigid
-- by at least 16 km/h below -25 C and by at least 32 km/h at -35
The report reveals that both train
length and speed rose significantly in just four years from
2013-2017. Train lengths were higher in
and February 2017 than the annual average for the years
Average speeds in January and February 2016 and 2017 were higher
the rest of the year averages for 2013- 2015. CP claims that the
significant increase in the length
and speed of trains over the years 2013-2017 is the result of
"significant capital investments, better winter planning, and
operational changes." The growing number of accidents, and the
number of derailments in a very short time tell a very different
New Brunswick Criminalizes Workers'
CUPE meeting March 9, 2019 to plan next moves after they were
of right to strike.
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) nursing
workers in New Brunswick have voted 94 per cent to go on strike
defend their demands for wages and working conditions acceptable
themselves. The provincial government instead of responding in a
positive and respectful manner applied for and was granted an
the Court of Queen's Bench to interfere with the workers' right
strike in defence of their demands. The day before the 4,100
would have walked off the job on March 10, the court granted an
depriving the workers of their right to strike for 10 days.
Regardless of which cartel party has been in
New Brunswick government has steadily refused to invest in
homes as a necessary social program to meet the needs and
those requiring care and the workers who provide the care.
governments have continually said that workers and the
Nursing Homes must negotiate within the investment parameters of
government of the day pretending that those who hold the purse
and decide how the value of nursing homes is realized are
the issue other than to interfere with workers' rights.
On March 11, nursing homes workers and allies
demonstrations in Saint John, Shippagan, Edmundston, and other
to protest the court order and interference in their right to
defence of their claim on the value they produce for society and
on their working conditions.
Workers' Forum interviewed Simon
Communications Representative for the Maritimes Office of the
Union of Public Employees.
Picket March 11, 2019 outside Deputy Premier Robert Gavin's
Workers' Forum: How many workers are
engaged in the current struggle?
Simon Ouellette: Approximately
employees, mostly women, work in 46 New Brunswick nursing homes
the province. It can be said that they are the support staff in
nursing home system: licensed practical nurses, cooks,
workers, attendants etc. These nursing homes are operated
funded by the government.
WF: What are the main demands of
SO: We can characterize the demands
follows: decent wages so as to solve the crisis of recruitment
retention of staff. These questions are interrelated. New
a population that is rapidly aging. The people who live in
homes can no longer drive and have reduced mobility. Their need
increasing, but the level of staff has not increased and the
not increased either. Wages have stagnated for more than a
is a phenomenon that is happening across New Brunswick, despite
economic recovery. What we have is a recovery without wage
In fact, New Brunswick workers have seen their purchasing
power decline. Nursing home workers are just the tip of the
There are many workers from different sectors whose wages have
stagnated and whose purchasing power has decreased.
At the heart of the
is recruitment and retention of staff. Without decent wages, the
experienced people leave the profession. New recruits work a few
and realize that the conditions make no sense and leave the
There is little incentive to stay because people can find a job
elsewhere. And even that is not always the
case because in rural areas nursing homes are often one of the
employers. There are over 350 staff vacancies at the moment in
across the province.
WF: There has been a lot of talk
essential services in this fight. Can you tell us more about
SO: There is a law that was passed
2009 on essential services in nursing homes in New Brunswick. The
designates almost all employees in nursing homes as essential.
Basically, they lost their right to strike. Then, the Supreme
Canada ruled, in 2015, in relation to a Saskatchewan law, that
right to free collective bargaining includes the right to strike
the Canadian Charter of Rights
Freedoms. In 2018, the New Brunswick
Labour and Employment Board invalidated much of the Essential
in Nursing Homes Act as being in contravention of the
The employer ended up in a situation where there
essential services designation. It requested that the government
intervene to review the designation of essential services. This
happening while we are in the midst of negotiations, and the
are in a situation where the workers have regained their right to
strike that had been
denied. It has been almost ten years since the retention crisis
escalated and there was not a single government that wanted to
the problem. Employers are asking for a review of the Board's
which could take years. Rather than be in the courts for years,
people who need to improve their wages and conditions and have
things in mind besides going to court. The employer hopes to deal
the legal system instead of coming to an acceptable agreement
WF: Can you tell us more about the
order that was issued Saturday, March 9?
SO: The Government of New Brunswick
obtained a court order from the Court of Queen's Bench Saturday.
learned about it in the media. They went for an ex parte
which means an order that is made in our absence. We did not even
the opportunity to present our arguments. The order says it is
go on strike and hold any kind of job action for the next 10
penalties are very severe for anyone who violates the court
We find it very irresponsible for the government
involved in the negotiation process using the big stick of the
favour of the employer instead of bringing resources to the table
improve the situation. It has been 28 months that we have been
to negotiate an acceptable contract.
The employer has dragged things out and it suits
very well that the government is engaging in these legal actions
because it allows the process to drag out so the employers do not
to provide better wages and conditions for the workers.
The government may seek an extension of the court
to review the issue of the designation of essential services in
homes. After that, the union will probably appeal if it is not
satisfied and that will never end. This could last for years and
practice deny employees a basic right.
We are asking that the government fix the
ensure that there is fair and equitable bargaining for a
agreement that is acceptable to the workers. We do not want the
important issue of wages and the recruitment and retention of
be drowned in the legal system.
Nursing home workers picket outside MLA's office, March 11,
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