Subcontracting contentious issue for employers, unions

Striking Steelworkers claim use of contractors intended to squeeze union labour from plant
By Danielle Harder
|Canadian Labour Reporter|Last Updated: 05/08/2012

As the lockout at Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelter in Alma, Que., enters its fifth month, the United Steelworkers union (USW) is stepping up its pressure on the company to deal with what it says is the central bargaining issue: the company’s desire to use more subcontractors to replace unionized workers as they retire.

Guy Farrell, assistant to the USW-Quebec director, recently attended Rio Tinto’s annual general meeting in London, England, to make an appeal to the company’s CEO.

“We’re not saying no to contracting out,” he says. “Let’s just put it on the table and negotiate the parameters of it. We don’t want it to be imposed on us.”