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Quebec ABI aluminum union workers locked out; 450,000 mt/yr plant not producing

Washington — Workers at the Aluminerie de Becancour, Quebec, aluminum smelter were locked out of the plant early Thursday morning, according to a union source. He said the 450,000 mt/year plant is operating but not producing. "There is electricity in the plant but no production," he said.

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Co-owner Alcoa said it "began operating the facility today at reduced capacity" and that the union's employees "will remain locked out of the facility until further notice. One of three potlines will be operated by management employees."

On Wednesday, the union workers voted 80.3% against the final labor contract that the company presented last month. The union source had said the workers have asked for the company to go back to the bargaining table and resume negotiations.

"So far metal is staying in the pot, but there is no casting at the cast house," he said.

The source said about 100 workers breached security and entered the plant and were sitting in the cafeteria.

"ABI negotiated in good faith and made every effort to obtain a satisfactory agreement for the business and its 1,035 union employees," said Alcoa. "The best and final offer from management was very competitive, among the best in the manufacturing sector in Quebec, both in terms of wages and benefits. The company's best and final offer included competitive pay and benefits with a retirement program that far exceeds what is offered by many other employers."

The previous five-year labor agreement at the plant expired midnight EST November 22 and covers 1,035 workers belonging to United Steelworkers union Local 9700.

Negotiations between the company and union started in early September and were extended until the company put forth its final offer December 22, at which point the union issued a statement expressing disappointment.

The smelter is co-owned 75% by Alcoa and 25% by Rio Tinto Alcan. It is the second largest smelter in North America, with output of 450,000 mt/year through three potlines and 720 pots.

--Tina Allagh,
--Edited by Maurice Geller,