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Steelworkers submit counter-proposal in 14-month ABI lockout

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ABI aluminum smelter
Canada   The Steelworkers union says it hopes its counter-proposal will pave the way

The United Steelworkers union presented a counter-proposal to management of the ABI aluminum smelter in Québec, 10 days after locked-out workers rejected a concession-laden company offer by an 82% majority.

The Steelworkers union says it hopes its counter-proposal will pave the way for the negotiation of a settlement between the parties to resolve the 14-month lockout, including a mutually acceptable return-to-work protocol.

The union's new proposal takes into account five issues identified by the employer during special mediation sessions – the organization of work, personnel transfers, absenteeism, union leaves and the pension plan – as well as issues including wages and the length of the collective agreement.

The union's counter-proposal incorporates a pension plan funding model put forward by the employer, moving away from a defined benefit plan where risk is assumed by the employer.

The union said its counter-proposal also will increase productivity, with 103 positions expected to be reduced through attrition.

While the union points out that wages were never a contentious issue in negotiations, its counter-proposal calls for increases based on the most-recent offer from the employer. The union's proposal calls for wage increases to be spread over an eight-year period, retroactive to the expiry of the previous collective agreement in November 2017.

The 1,030 union members at the Bécancour smelter were locked out on Jan. 11, 2018, by Alcoa and Rio Tinto.

Hydro-Québec recently reported that the lockout cost the publicly owned utility $165 million in lost revenues in 2018.


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