Union, Government Await ABI's Return to Bargaining Table

02/09/18 11:46 AM EST

Union, Government Await ABI's Return to Bargaining Table

Canada NewsWire

QUEBEC CITY, Feb. 9, 2018 /CNW/ - Representatives of 1,030 locked-out employees of the ABI aluminum smelter today praised the efforts of Quebec Labour Minister Dominique Viens in advocating for a negotiated settlement to the month-long lockout.

The labour minister encouraged a resumption of bargaining during separate meetings today with representatives of the United Steelworkers and ABI management. The union reiterated its willingness to resume bargaining as well as its hope that the company will agree to seek a negotiated settlement.

"The tone was cordial and there was a sense that we're working towards the same goal – to reach a satisfactory resolution," Quebec Steelworkers Director Alain Croteau said of the meeting with the minister.

"We've been offering to resume negotiations all along, even before our members were locked out. We're hoping that Alcoa and Rio Tinto will accept the call to get back to the table and that they will give their representatives the mandate they need to reach an agreement," Croteau said.

The ABI aluminum smelter in Bécancour is co-owned by Alcoa (75%) and Rio Tinto (25%).

During today's meeting with the labour minister, union representatives called out the company's tactics last month to abruptly end negotiations, table a second 'final offer,' then lock out employees despite making progress on key issues.

"We explained to the minister how the union had made significant movement, particularly on the pension issue. Shortly afterwards, the employer opted to end the negotiations, rather than continuing the talks and achieving an agreement," said Steelworkers Local 9700 President Clément Masse, representing the ABI smelter workers.

"Twice the employer tabled a comprehensive offer that derailed the negotiations. The only way to settle this dispute is to get back to the bargaining table," Masse said.

Steelworkers officials were awaiting news of the outcome of the labour minister's meeting today with ABI management. The union has already advised a provincial government conciliator that it is ready to resume negotiations at any time.

"The way to find solutions to the outstanding issues is to speak to each other around the table, not by throwing around ill-thought out, unilateral demands," Croteau and Masse said.

The Syndicat des Métallos/United Steelworkers is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing 60,000 workers in all sectors of the economy.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

View original content: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/February2018/09/c2867.html