14-month lockout at Quebec smelter to continue as union rejects offer

Employees of the ABI aluminum plant in Bécancour, Que., have rejected the latest contract offer from management. The nearly 1,000 workers have been locked out since January of last year.

'It's time for the employer to come and sit down to negotiate in good faith,' says union president

ABI employees celebrate as the latest offer from their employer was rejected, prolonging a labour dispute that started in January 2018. (Radio-Canada)

Employees of the ABI aluminum plant in Bécancour, Que., have rejected the latest contract offer from management, prolonging a 14-month labor dispute.

The nearly 1,000 workers at one of the country's largest smelters have been locked out since January of last year.

About 90 per cent of union members attended a meeting Monday evening, making it the largest union gathering since the lockout began.

Most cheered and rejoiced when union leaders announced 82 per cent of members had voted to reject the employer's offer and the return-to-work protocol.

"It's time for the employer to come and sit down to negotiate in good faith," said Clément Masse, president of Local 9700 steelworkers' union.

In a statement, ABI's management said it was disappointed that the union had rejected an offer it described as fair and competitive.

Without the workers, the smelter, located 170 kilometres northeast of Montreal, was forced to shut two of its potlines, a series of containers used to reduce or smelt alumina before forming aluminum.

A third has been kept running at reduced capacity by management and salaried employees of the smelter's majority owner, Pittsburgh-based Alcoa.

The conference room in the Centre des congrès de Trois-Rivières was packed for the Steelworkers' Local 9700 union meeting. (Maude Montembeault/Radio-Canada)

Ratification of the deal would have ended the labour dispute with a plan to resume operations, said Alcoa, which holds a 75 per cent stake in the company.

Alain Croteau, the Quebec director of the steelworkers' union, said the Bécancour plant is among the most successful aluminum smelters on the continent.

"It's called the Formula 1 of aluminum smelters in America," he said.

With files from Radio-Canada

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