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Issue #1555      11 July 2012

Canadian unions celebrate deal with Rio Tinto

Unions claimed victory last week after a long running dispute at the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter in Alma, Canada ended with workers in three groups voting in favour of a new deal.

The 780 United Steelworkers union members, who were locked out on December 30 last year, voted to accept by margins of 82 percent to 92 percent.

One of the key issues in the dispute was outsourcing. The multinational company wanted to replace retiring workers with sub-contractors who would be paid lower wages.

The United Steelworkers said that the new contract limited outsourcing, bolstering the interests of the Quebec employees.

During the dispute the union had also denounced the company’s continued operation of its dams and the selling of its electricity production to Hydro-Quebec.

“We faced the third-largest mining company in the world and we won,” said United Steelworkers international president Leo Gerard.

“The message to multinational corporations is clear: workers are more determined than ever to defend their rights.”

“I thank our members and their families who have never abandoned the fight despite six months of lockout,” USW Local 9490 president Mark Maltais said.

The lockout caused a one-third reduction in output at the smelter and Alma’s mayor had said that it had hit the local economy hard.

He said the positive outcome would bring welcome relief to the community, which has been watching its pennies over the last few months.

Morning Star   

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