In the News
The Role and Concerns of Steelworkers
ArcelorMittal Strike Ends in Quebec: Workers’ Determination Ends Two-Tier Pensions
On February 27, the 800 ArcelorMittal workers in Longueuil and Contrecoeur in Quebec ratified a new labour contract, ending the strike they began on February 2. They returned to work on Monday, February 28.
According to the United Steelworkers in Quebec, the determination of these workers and the support of their counterparts across Quebec, including financial assistance, has resulted in an end to two pension plans coexisting at both plants, a $9 wage hike over six years – an increase of about 26 per cent, and substantial increases in pension benefits. The pension will climb from $59 per month per year of service to $68 at the end of the sixth year. Group insurance has also been improved.
“This contract meets expectations and, above all, our members’ determination. It’s a great victory for solidarity,” said the three representatives of Locals 6586 (President Jason Braconnier for the Contrecoeur-East plant), 8897 (President François Lévesque for the Longueuil plant) and 8060 (spokesperson Éric Imbeault – office workers).
With regard to new hires, the workers are particularly proud to have put an end to the coexistence of the two pension plans. New employees will now be automatically enrolled in the defined benefit pension plan, whereas previously they had to choose between a defined contribution and a defined benefit plan. “No new worker will be enrolled in a less advantageous plan, as this puts an end to two-tier once and for all. Although few new union members chose the defined contribution plan, the very existence of the two plans was a threat. This sends a strong signal for the sustainability of the defined benefit pension plan and for equality amongst all workers,” the local union leaders said.
During the short strike, workers upheld their tradition of recurring financial support for their counterparts in other sectors, which builds their organized strength against supranational private monopolies and oligopolies and the governments that serve them.
The workers received assistance, including financial support, from several Steelworkers’ locals, who sent delegations to support the striking workers on their picket lines. This included workers from the Montérégie area, such as Local 9414 (composite local), Local 6839 who manufacture steel products at Infasco, and the Sivaco wire drawing plant who are members of Local 6818. Others included members of Local 9700 of the ABI aluminum smelter in Bécancour, who fought a lockout for over a year and a half in 2018-2019 and those from Local 6658 at Ciment Lafarge in Saint-Constant, who themselves defeated the company’s bid to impose a two-tiered pension plan for new workers through their three-month strike in 2016.
Workers’ Forum commends the ArcelorMittal workers and all those who supported them for their determination in fighting for conditions that they deem acceptable to all.
(Workers’ Forum, posted March 4, 2022)