Quebec plant obtains injunction against locked-out workers

Picketers must stay 150 metres away and limit groups to 20
||Last Updated: 01/05/2012

Locked-out workers at a Quebec aluminum processing plant will have to abide by certain rules after the company obtained a court injunction from the Quebec Superior Court.

According to the injunction, protesting Rio Tinto Alcan employees must keep approximately 150 metres away from the plant and limit groups of protestors to 20.

Rio Tinto sought the injunction on the second day of the lockout because company managers need easy access to the smelter without the obstruction of protesters, according to the company.

About 760 employees at the Alma, Que. plant were locked out after their contract expired on Dec. 31. At that time, Rio Tinto announced it would shut down 144 out of the plant’s 432 reduction cells for as long as the lockout was in effect.

The company has decided to begin the process of shutting down an additional 144 cells, leaving one-third of the Alma smelter’s capacity in operation, it announced on Jan. 3.

Leaders at the Syndicat des Métallos d’Alma — the union representing locked-out workers — say they suspect Rio Tinto is using replacement workers to continue production. This is illegal in Quebec.

Union officials say they saw helicopters landing at the smelter on Jan. 1 with numerous passengers on board.

While Rio says about 200 managers will continue operations at the plant, the union claims the smelter requires nearly 1,000 workers and managers when running at full capacity.

The union said it is asking Quebec’s Labour Ministry to investigate whether provincial labour laws are being obeyed.

The two parties disagree over subcontracting conditions. The union is demanding that retiring workers be replaced with unionized hires, while Rio Tinto wants the option of subcontracting out some of the work.

The parties have been in negotiations since Oct. 4, 2011.

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