Aluminum producer Alcoa is indicating that it is not interested in settling a nine-month lockout of 1,030 employees at its ABI smelter in Bécancour, Que., said the United Steelworkers (USW).
Alcoa has demanded more concessions from the locked-out workers even though the ABI smelter has the lowest labour costs per unit production among all of Alcoa's facilities in North America, according to USW.
The situation prompted former Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard, appointed by the provincial government as a special mediator in the labour dispute, to suspend the mediation process last week, said the union.
The locked-out workers, members of USW/Syndicat des Métallos, Local 9700, met Oct. 9 in Trois-Rivières, Que., to discuss the breakdown in negotiations as well as their plan to escalate a campaign to increase pressure on Alcoa for a fair settlement.
“Alcoa has demanded new concessions from workers several times during the negotiations,” said Clément Masse, USW Local 9700 president. “The company is trying to make workers bear the brunt of its bad decision to lock out its employees in the first place.”
Labour costs to produce one tonne of aluminium at the ABI smelter are $142.90, less than at any other smelter in North America. In comparison, labour costs per tonne are $145.30 at the Deschambault smelter and $157.60 at the Baie-Comeau smelter, said the union.
Workers have been locked out since Jan. 11 at the ABI smelter, which is co-owned by Alcoa and Rio Tinto.
Affiliated with the FTQ, the Syndicat des Métallos/United Steelworkers is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing 60,000 workers in all sectors of the economy.