Seeking an end to the ABI lockout

United Steelworkers want to go to arbitration


Bécancour, Quebec, Friday, February 22, 2019 – Local 9700 of the United Steelworkers announced this morning that at tomorrow’s general assembly of its members, it will propose submitting the dispute between the ABI and the union to fast‑track arbitration.

“We’re going to ask our members for a mandate to request arbitration for the dispute. If we receive this mandate, we will request an accelerated arbitration procedure in which each side can argue its point of view and, at the end of the procedure, the parties would be bound by the arbitrator’s decision. We see this as a real solution to a lockout that has gone on far too long,”explained Local 9700 President Clément Masse.

The Government of Quebec has the power to appoint an arbitrator if both the union and the company agree to this measure. Such an appointment would allow the arbitrator to hear the parties’ respective viewpoints; and the arbitrator would then specify the content of the new collective agreement. Parties that agree to arbitration are obligated to accept the results of this procedure.

“From the outset, we have said over and over again that we wanted to reach a negotiated agreement between the parties. It’s obvious, however, that we’re still at an impasse, with the employer cancelling the bargaining days that were scheduled for last week. The minister suggested yesterday that a theoretical ruling be submitted to the two parties. This process strikes us as a haphazard way of doing things because it in no way guarantees that the employer would accept it. In light of the bad faith the employer has shown from the beginning of the conflict, we’re afraid we would just come up against another wall, with a theoretical ruling that wouldn’t hold water. Tomorrow we’re going to ask our members whether they are ready to take the risk of going to arbitration,” said Masse in conclusion.

ABI’s 1,030 workers have been locked out and on the picket line by Alcoa and Rio Tinto since Jan. 11, 2018. The stumbling block for negotiations concerns pension plan financing and seniority rights in personnel transfers. On Wednesday it was learned that the conflict has caused a financial loss of $165 million for Hydro-Québec in 2018.

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