May 16, 2019
Solidarity March with Locked-Out ABI Workers
All Out May 25 to
Support the ABI Workers -- Their Fight is Our Fight!
Outside the Cogeco
Amphitheatre at 100 Draveurs Avenue
For information and buses from across
office: 416-243-8792 or firstname.lastname@example.org
• ABI Workers
and Allies Present Their Case to Alcoa Shareholders at Pittsburgh
• Discussion of the Alcoa/Rio Tinto-Government
Dictated Contract and Back-to-Work Protocol at ABI -
Interview, Alexandre Fréchette, President,
Alma Aluminum Workers' Union, United Steelworkers Local 9490
Lockout at Glencore's
Smelter in Belledune, New Brunswick
• Workers Demand Withdrawal of Reckless
36th Annual Ontario
Injured Workers' Day
• Province-Wide Actions Build Momentum for June
1 and "Workers' Comp Is a Right!" Campaign
100th Anniversary of
the Winnipeg General Strike
• Canadian Workers' Proud History of Organized
Resistance and Defence
Mass Family Solidarity March with
Locked-Out ABI Workers
ABI workers have been locked out for more than 16
months by the Alcoa/Rio Tinto global cartel. They are organizing a
family march on Saturday May 25, in the streets of
Trois-Rivières, to affirm the justness of their cause and rally
people to stand with them in this important struggle for the rights of
working people and the
well-being of their communities.
The ABI workers have been
fighting tirelessly throughout the lockout, and for many months before,
to negotiate a collective agreement acceptable to themselves and to
defend their union against the scheme of the global cartel to destroy
The ABI workers are calling on everyone to march
together to support their struggle, as one that affects the rights and
working and living standards of all and the well-being of the
communities where they live. Their struggle is in defence of terms of
employment at a modern acceptable standard in the Mauricie and
Region and throughout Quebec and Canada.
All dignified working people find it unacceptable that a
global cartel refuses to negotiate with those who do the work and their
representatives. Instead, the cartel is using its massive social
wealth, and production from other aluminum facilities it controls, to
lock out workers for months on end and force them to accept working
conditions that will drive down conditions generally throughout the
region and Canada itself. In this battle for rights and a standard of
living acceptable to those who do the work, the Quebec government is
bringing shame on itself for not coming to the defence of its own
people but rather acting like a flunkey of the global cartel. The
government is openly siding with the cartel's demands to outsource
work, lower the standard of living in the region and destroy the union.
The government is even allowing Alcoa not to pay for its contracted
electricity during the lockout, energy which Hydro-Quebec has prepared,
budgeted for and set aside for the monopoly at preferential rates thus
creating a direct loss to the Quebec people of hundreds of millions of
All Out May 25!
The Quebec Steelworkers are organizing buses from
several regions to travel to Trois-Rivières: Côte-Nord,
Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, Québec, Laurentides-Lanaudière,
Montérégie, Abititi-Témiscamingue, Estrie,
Montreal and Outaouais. Buses will leave from different cities in these
regions. USW District 6 has announced the participation of Ontario
Steelworkers, who are also renting buses for the occasion. USW District
6 also represents steelworkers in the Atlantic provinces who also
support the just cause of ABI workers.
Workers' Forum calls on all workers and their
families to participate in the march to make it the greatest possible
success. Workers' Forum will
be there and will report on the action, with photos and interviews. In
this issue, we include an interview with Alexandre Fréchette,
President of the Alma Aluminum Workers' Union. Based on the actual
experience of Alma workers during and following their 2012 lockout by
Rio Tinto, President Fréchette gives details to expose the
fraudulent nature of the Minister of Labour's settlement proposal,
which totally sides with the global cartel and negates the rights of
From the beginning of this
unjust lockout and refusal of the global cartel to negotiate, an
important factor sustaining the workers at ABI and allowing them to
continue their struggle has been the organized support, including
financial support, that other workers have sent to them. They have
received financial support from over 400 local
unions in Quebec, Canada, the United States, Australia and Guatemala.
In this important way workers themselves have taken the initiative to
counter the huge global power of the oligopolies such as Alcoa and Rio
Tinto and the governments that do their bidding, such as the Quebec
government. The global cartels are possessed with the singular
aim of maximum private profit regardless of the effects on the working
people, the social and natural environment and the nation. Working
people can counter this global power with our human power and
determination to defend our rights, communities and nation.
On May 25, let us all go to Trois-Rivières to
show our support for the just cause of the ABI workers and their
families and communities and tell Alcoa/Rio Tinto in no uncertain terms
that we stand with the workers and their families and communities. We
are one with their struggle and together we can make a difference in
this battle with a global giant. Together we can make a contribution to
the struggle of all workers for their rights in these most difficult
times of the anti-social offensive and nation-wrecking by the ruling
The Alcoa/Rio Tinto cartel must negotiate a collective
agreement with its workers and reach an acceptable arrangement the
workers can accept. The cartel must give up its attempts to silence the
workers and smash their union. Workers are the essential human factor
and have rights and a voice that must be heard with regards to their
and living conditions and the direction of the economy and nation.
All Out for the May 25 March!
Full Support for the Just Struggle of the ABI Workers!
Close to 200 ABI workers and allies demonstrated in the
Pittsburgh on May 8, where Alcoa's annual meeting of shareholders was
being held. The demonstrators called for a negotiated agreement and an
end to the 16-month lockout. Workers also addressed the shareholders'
meeting, backing up their demand that the company
negotiate a collective agreement acceptable to those who do the work.
Alcoa's headquarters are located in Pittsburgh. The fact
that 200 of
the 1,030 ABI workers made the 13-hour bus trip shows their
determination to uphold the dignity of labour and their community.
The workers met with members of the Alcoa and Arconic
unions in the
United States to discuss their experience and share their concerns.
Arconic was formed out of the splitting of Alcoa in 2016 into two
separate entities. Alcoa has retained the extraction and production of
bauxite and the production of alumina and primary aluminum while
Arconic focuses on the processing of aluminum and other light metals
into manufactured products for the aerospace, automobile and other
The workers also met with USW International President
who said the union is pressuring Alcoa to sign a collective agreement
that is acceptable to the ABI workers. Steelworkers in the U.S. are
currently trying to negotiate a master agreement with Alcoa and
Arconic. Gerard said the USW has told the employer representatives that
the Bécancour conflict is damaging their own negotiations and
them more difficult.
ABI workers were accompanied by a delegation of
the Rio Tinto aluminum smelter in Alma who are members of USW Local
9490. U.S. workers from Alcoa and Arconic joined with them to
in the streets of the city with flags and banners raised. They ended
their demonstration in front of the doors of the hotel
where the annual meeting of shareholders was being held.
Equipped with shareholders' proxies, workers intervened
in the Alcoa
meeting to tell shareholders that the lockout, which has now lasted
more than 16 months, is unacceptable to all concerned. An international
USW leader told shareholders that it is striking that the name Alcoa is
associated with problems in so many places where it operates.
He mentioned Australia, Spain and now Canada. In Australia in 2018,
Alcoa demanded and received approval from the state Labour Relations
Tribunal to cancel the collective agreement covering 1,500 workers.
Alcoa and the state Tribunal used a fraudulent and arrogant pretext
that the collective agreement does not allow the company to be
flexible and competitive in global markets. At the end of 2018, Alcoa
announced the closure of two smelters in Spain, provoking a fight that
workers and their communities continue to wage.
Clément Masse, President of USW Local 9700
representing the ABI
workers, also spoke at the shareholders' meeting. He told Workers'
Forum that his speech raised the values that Alcoa claims to
told them that Alcoa says that one of the values it defends is the
environment. I asked them 'what does Alcoa do with the social
environment?' I told them that the social environment has deteriorated
with the conflict that has affected the community. Many people are
affected. This has to be taken into account too." President Masse also
told shareholders that the Alcoa plant in Bécancour performs
workforce has great expertise, and shareholders are losing a lot of
money for no reason. They have everything to gain by demanding Alcoa
executives sign a negotiated agreement to end the lockout. Alcoa CEO
Roy Harvey responded that he was concerned, but made no further comment.
According to Clément Masse, shareholders listened
attentively to the
message from the workers, and some came to shake hands with them
following their intervention. ABI worker representatives also met with
two executives from Alcoa's Pittsburgh headquarters and presented their
- Interview, Alexandre Fréchette,
President, Alma Aluminum Workers' Union,
United Steelworkers Local 9490 -
Mass rally for Alma aluminum workers, March 31, 2012.
In this interview, President Fréchette points
out that the Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet before entering
government worked as a lawyer for Heenan Blaikie and had various
contracts to represent ABI. "To see how he acts, how he systematically
favours the employer and puts pressure on the workers, I think we can
ask very serious questions and certainly at least say that this
minister is not neutral in the conflict," President Fréchette
Workers' Forum: In his April 17 proposal
for a settlement of the ABI conflict, Quebec Labour Minister Jean
Boulet said that he took into account the Rio Tinto lockout of 2012 in
Alma. He suggested he was in fact faithful to what happened in Alma to
achieve a similar result for the current lockout at ABI. Can you tell
more about the actual situation as it unfolded after the lockout at
Alexandre Frechette, President of USW Local 9490,
expresses support of
the Alma aluminum workers at a rally for the ABI workers on February 8,
Alexandre Fréchette: Regarding the
duration of the return to work period that would follow after the
lockout at ABI, it is one of two things: either the minister is
incompetent, or he is a liar. To try to justify his settlement proposal
at ABI, the Minister says that in Alma we managed, with great
difficulty, to get people back to
work in six months. Hence, he proposes the ABI back-to-work protocol
should provide that workers return to work within six months of the end
of the lockout.
In fact, it was written in black and white in our (2012)
collective agreement that the employer agreed to call back all those
who were full-time employees as of December 31, 2011, no later than 90
days after restarting the very first tank. This was actually clause 13
of our collective agreement. There was even an appendix to this, a
the detailed restart schedule, week by week, up to 14 weeks. So within
90 days, at the most, everyone is back to work.
As I said, this agreement was actually part of our
(2012) collective agreement, and is even in our 2015 collective
agreement. And in fact, in Alma, the return to work was completed in 90
days. What was a little difficult in our return to work was not the
time it took, but the order of recall, seniority. There were recall
errors, which were
actually fully compensated by the company. As for the time frame, it
was fully respected.
As I said, the Minister is either an incompetent, who
says things he is not familiar with, or he is well aware of what he
says, knows it is a lie, and is using it against the workers.
WF: The minister also said that he has
"modernized" the outsourcing clause of ABI in his settlement proposal.
What has he actually done?
AF: It is very simple. In ABI's collective
agreement, Alcoa has the right to subcontract work within a list of
activities where subcontracting is permitted. By "modernizing" it, the
minister has simply removed the list so that Alcoa can outsource jobs
anywhere in the plant.
What he did was eliminate the list of jobs that can be
subcontracted. This list is a constraint on the company. If I draw a
parallel with Alma, in order to have a list of jobs for which
outsourcing is allowed, we had to go through six months of lockout.
Basically, I would say that 90 per cent of our fight was to have that
list. The issue was to
limit the management rights of the employer, to have a clause that
limits both the amount of outsourcing and the places where it can apply.
Our outsourcing clause essentially says that management
has the right to take 15 per cent of the hours worked per operation and
use them in subcontracting and they have to apply (those hours) to a
list of jobs that has been negotiated. It is important because we chose
jobs where the harm was less; jobs in which the knowledge of the
process is not necessary; jobs, for example in material handling and
related things. This is a very serious concession that the minister is
introducing at ABI, and it is certain in our opinion that this is
something that must be denounced loud and clear.
Just for that, just for this outsourcing clause, in my
opinion this settlement proposal is worse than the offer that the
company made in March, an offer that workers massively rejected. So
when the minister is talking about this as if it is something
incidental in this conflict, we tell him that we fought six months to
get that list, and he is just taking this away in his settlement
proposal. So who is he working for?
In our view, these two elements are so blatant that it
is either incompetence or lies; I am not able to prove the intention
with certainty. Now, if I look at the Minister's history, Mr. Boulet
has already represented ABI and its contracts in the past. He dealt
with contracts for ABI as a lawyer while working for Heenan Blaikie. To
see how he acts,
how he systematically favours the employer and puts pressure on the
workers, I think we can ask very serious questions and certainly at
least say that this minister is not neutral in the conflict.
Lockout at Glencore's Smelter in
Belledune, New Brunswick
USW Local 7085 representatives took part in Glencore's annual
in Zug, Switzerland, May 9, 2019, to oppose company's
The lockout of workers at the Glencore smelter in
Belledune, New Brunswick has now passed three weeks. Locked out workers
from USW Local 7085 report they are determined to defend their rights,
and demand the mining and metallurgical oligopoly Glencore retract its
demands for onerous concessions.
Two members of Local 7085
plus a staff representative of the union travelled to Zug,
Switzerland to take part in Glencore's annual shareholders' meeting on
May 9. Supported by
the IndustriAll Global Union, of which the United Steelworkers is an
affiliate, they intervened
in the meeting to oppose Glencore's concessionary demands on health and
representation and pensions and benefits.
They met with the CEO of Glencore, with the
board member who is chairman of the Health, Safety, Environment and
Committee, and with other board members.
According to a report from United Steelworkers District 6, which covers
Ontario and Atlantic
Canada, the Glencore workers explained the issues at the New Brunswick
provided examples of harassment and an unsafe culture in the facility.
The team made it clear
that it expects a follow-up. The union is ready to negotiate but not on
the basis of provocative
anti-worker concessions, which endanger the health and safety of the
workforce. If need be,
the union will engage in a broad global public campaign to defend
workers' rights at the
smelter, the report said.
Meanwhile, locally, no contact has occurred between Glencore management
and the union.
The union told managers from the outset that Local 7085 is willing to
go back to the
bargaining table, but first the reckless concessionary demands on
health and safety must be
withdrawn. Workers report they remain hopeful that something positive
will develop as the
smelter is extremely productive, but at the same time, they are not
willing to give up their just
demand for the removal of Glencore's concessionary demands.
Glencore management on site continues to misinform the public by
writing in the local
newspapers that the dispute is over money. The president of the union
Bart Dempsey told the
press that of course workers would like to have a raise but the fight
is not centred on wages
but rather on forcing Glencore to remove their concessionary demands.
As the union has
repeatedly pointed out, workers at this point are basically asking to
preserve what they
President Dempsey told Workers' Forum
that workers are opposing
by explaining to the public the details and nature of the conflict. Up
to April 2018, Glencore
had not asked for any of these concessions. Management was even saying
that it was willing
to leave the contract exactly as is for another five years, if workers
would accept a wage
increase of only $0.45 an hour.
Workers at the time said such a small raise was not acceptable
especially given that they had made large concessions, including on
pensions, in the 2014 contract after Glencore merged with Xstrata and
acquired the smelter. However, workers said they would consider
Glencore's offer during formal negotiations where the paltry offer on
wages could be discussed along with certain language in the collective
agreement that was of concern.
But suddenly without warning, Glencore management came up with a long
list of concessions and refused to consider any proposals from the
workers. Workers report they never received a formal response for
discussion of their proposals. Instead, the situation degenerated into
one of company dictate and extortion with the cartel's aim being to
worsen working conditions and smash the union.
Proof of this intransigence came on April 24 this year, when Glencore
without any notice
locked out the dayshift from entering the plant prior to the start of a
legal strike scheduled to
begin at 6:00 pm. Instead of opposing Glencore's reckless illegal
and refusal to negotiate,
the Superior Court of New Brunswick sanctioned the behaviour by
granting two court orders
sought by the company, which hamper the ability of the workers to mount
an effective picket
line in defence of their rights.
Glencore and ABI Workers Face Global Oligopolies
The similarity between the situation facing the Glencore
workers in Belledune,
New Brunswick and the locked out ABI workers in Bécancour,
Quebec is striking. In both
cases workers appeared to be close to an agreement, if only the global
cartels had engaged in
good faith bargaining. Far from this happening, the oligopolies soured
relations and went for
the jugular, attacking the workers' basic rights and trying to break
the union, all the while
distorting the nature of the conflict and slandering the workers by
accusing them of being
responsible for the lockouts.
ABI and Glencore smelter workers and working people in general have a
common cause in uniting to defend their rights against the power of the
oligopolies and their state representatives. Across the country, the
ruling financial oligarchy with its anti-social offensive has
politicized its demands, taking over state powers and getting laws
changed so as to impose austerity measures which weaken and dismantle
social programs and regulations so that companies cannot be held to
account for bad practices. Specific attacks on workers such as at ABI,
Glencore, GM and Canada Post are clearly aimed at making unions
ineffective as defence organizations of the workers. The parties which
form the cartel party system to make sure the people cannot speak in
their own name but remain marginalized and deprived of any effective
voice whatsoever are all on board. There is no end in sight to the
disequilibrium in the relations between the two main social classes:
those who own and control the productive forces and buy workers'
capacity to work, and the workers who sell their capacity to work to
those in control, without the workers taking matters into their own
hands and fighting for their rights within the fight for the rights of
Companies and their state representatives are attempting to turn this
social relation into a one-sided dictate, using their global wealth and
reach and the police powers of the state to overwhelm the working
class, dampen its will to fight and deny workers what belongs to them
by right. The courageous examples of the ABI and Glencore workers to
give rights meaning in the 21st century are
historic, as was
the valiant fight of Hamilton steelworkers in USW Local 1005 who,
through their defence of their pensions exposed the use of insolvency
law and courts to smash the unions and defend what belongs to the
workers by right. They have been joined by working people in all
sectors of the economy who are standing up in defence of their rights
and the rights of all. These fights, along with the broad countrywide
and international support the ABI and Glencore workers are receiving,
demonstrate the determination of the working class to unite in defence
of their dignity and rights, and to develop new methods of struggle
suitable for the new conditions of disequilibrium and the power of the
1. For more information on how
Glencore decreed the lockout and the anti-worker
concessions it is attempting to extort, and the courageous stand of the
workers of Local 7085
in defence of their rights and dignity, read "Workers Stand Up
for Their Rights and Dignity," Workers' Forum, May 2, 2019.
36th Annual Ontario Injured Workers' Day
The organizations that make up the Ontario Network of
Workers' Groups (ONIWG) held a series of actions across the province on
May 14 in the lead-up to the 36th Annual Injured Workers' Day rally at
Queen's Park in Toronto, as well as in other cities on June 1.
The May 14 actions and the June 1 rallies build on the
Comp Is a Right Campaign" launched by ONIWG in 2017, to defend the
rights of all by ensuring that all workers in Ontario are covered by
the workers' compensation system and that the system provides injured
workers with what they need to live in dignity. Workers'
Forum calls on everyone to go all out to take part on June 1.
ONIWG explains that it launched the campaign "because we
stand up to the injustices that are being committed against us as
injured workers. For too long, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
(WSIB) has gotten away with violating our rights through cutbacks and
austerity, with no accountability. The system has been
transformed from one that is supposed to support us, into one that is
hostile to us.
"We refuse to accept this. We are taking a stand across
reclaim our voice, and to call for a strong, public workers'
compensation system that operates according to its founding principles.
"With the Workers' Comp Is a Right campaign, we have
throughout the entire province coming together and organizing around
three key demands:
"1. No cuts based on phantom jobs!
2. Listen to injured workers' treating healthcare professionals!
3. Stop cutting benefits based on 'pre-existing conditions'!
"Together, we are powerful, and we have the collective
build our movement until we achieve these demands and see justice for
May 14 Day of Action
Barrie; Thunder Bay
100th Anniversary of the Winnipeg General
Rally June 4, 1919, outside the building which housed the citizen's
This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Winnipeg
General Strike. On May First 1919, discouraged by post-war inflation
and unemployment, Winnipeg's metal and building workers went on strike,
demanding higher wages. Winnipeg's building trade workers walked out to
gain better wages and hours. They were joined by iron workers who were
fighting for company recognition of their union, the Metal Trades
Council. On May 15, with the overwhelming support of its 12,000
members, the Winnipeg Labour Council called a general strike. Thirty
thousand union and non-union people walked off the job. Among the first
out were the city's telephone workers. Winnipeg had no phone service
for a week. Strikes were organized in Edmonton and Calgary in support
of the Winnipeg General Strike.
The context for this strike was the grave economic
crisis in which Britain and by extension Canada found themselves
following World War I, as well as the unconscionable treatment the
workers received when they returned from fighting the trench warfare in
which thousands were sent to the most horrible death in the euphoria
for empire which preceded the war. Thousands more died following the
war of the Spanish flu. The war quickly smashed that euphoria, leaving
Canada at a crossroads, not only flailing in the throes of an economy
whose old basis had been smashed by the war but also without an aim
rooted in the former empire-building. The service of governments to
alien interests and the moloch of capital, with which the workers
definitely did not identify, put a severe strain on the ability of
governments to maintain labour peace.
The government of Canada along with the provincial
clearly feared a revolution similar to the one that had just happened
in Russia. They spread lies that claimed "immigrants" were behind the
strike. The Government of Canada amended the Immigration Act so that
even British-born immigrants who in those days were
automatically granted citizenship rights, could be deported. It
mobilized the police forces against the striking workers and resorted
to violence to crush the strike. The response of government to the
terrible plight the workers were in at that time clearly revealed the
role of the state in suppressing the struggles of the workers who had
so much in the trench warfare of World War I.
In June, the federal authorities officially resorted to
threats to suppress working class politics, even though they attempted
to deceive the public by avoiding the word "political" in their
accusations. Amendments to Section 41 of the Immigration Act
defined "a prohibited immigrant" as "anyone interested in overthrowing
organized government either in the Empire (at the provincial level in
Canada too) or in general, or in destroying property, or promoting riot
or public disorder, or belonging to a secret organization trying to
control people by threat or blackmail."
After nearly a month, Winnipeg's mayor called out special
constables whose presence just fuelled the strikers' fire. Their
leaders were arrested. The North West Mounted Police (which became the
Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1920) and special constables fired on
the workers, killing two men. An additional 34 people were wounded and
80 arrested. A few days later, on June 21, the strike ended with a
march organized by war veterans.
The Winnipeg General Strike became known as the largest
revolt in Canadian history which is subject of many studies relating
not only to the role of the government and police forces but also to
role played by unions, communists, socialists and the traditional
political parties. The significance of this strike and of the times in
it took place will be further explored for the information of our
1. Barbara Roberts, Whence
They Came: Deportation from Canada (Ottawa: University of Ottawa
Press, 1988), p. 84.
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