BÉCANCOUR, Quebec — The over 1,000 members of United Steelworkers Local 9700, who’ve been locked out by the ABI Bécancour aluminum bosses since Jan. 11, received a solidarity boost when professors from the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières joined their picket line May 29. They brought a $5,000 check for the union.
We are here “to condemn the lockout which aims to force workers to accept decisions which are not theirs,” Ismail Biskri, president of the professors’ union, told workers on the line. “We lived through our own 14-day lockout, and we can’t forget the ABI lockout.” Professors were locked out May 2-16.
The Alcoa and Rio Tinto bosses, who own ABI, locked out the aluminum workers after they voted against a concessions contract. Bosses demanded a divisive two-tier pension plan where new hires would have inferior benefits.
The bosses have refused to bargain. The Liberal Party government appointed former Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard as a special mediator in April, but he hasn’t succeeded in restarting negotiations. And Washington’s May 31 announcement of punitive tariffs on aluminum imports from Canada has added pressure on the bosses to attack the workers. Some 80 percent of Canada’s aluminum is exported to the U.S.
The workers’ strike trailer has a “solidarity wall” filled with dozens of logos of unions that have given donations or are sending thousands of dollars weekly.
Lisanne Corriveau, an electrolysis operator, told Communist League members who joined the picket line May 27 how a busload of ABI workers distributed leaflets to 500 nonunion workers at the Alcoa plant in the town of Deschambault asking for support and inviting them to join the union. “We were well received,” she said.
Night shift pickets were warmly appreciative when in early May a Walmart worker delivered a solidarity card signed by seven Walmart workers from two stores in the Montreal area.
“It is very good when people like you come by the picket line,” 25-year ABI veteran Alain Auger said. “If there is one place that needs a union, it’s Walmart.”
Send solidarity messages and donations to Métallos SL 9700 F.D.P. Attention Éric Moore, section locale 9700, 8310, rue Desormeaux, Bécancour, Quebec G9H 2X2. Credit card donations can also be made online by visiting: www.metallos.org/lockout-abi/.