Quick end to lockout at Rio's Quebec smelter unlikely

Mon Feb 6, 2012 2:48pm EST
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Rio Tinto's lockout of workers at its Alcan division's big Alma aluminum smelter in northern Quebec looks set to drag on, and the company said on Monday that no talks were scheduled.

"I wouldn't put a timeline to (talks) right now because nothing is scheduled," said Rio Tinto Alcan spokesman Bryan Tucker.

Rio Tinto Alcan locked unionized workers out at the 438,000 tonne smelter, in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec, on January 1, after talks on a new contract failed. The old contract expired on December 31 and the two sides had been talking since October.

Rio has been operating the plant with non-unionized workers at about one-third of capacity since early January.

The Anglo-Australian miner said on Friday it will restart two suspended lines of production at its Shawinigan smelter in Quebec, bringing that plant back to full production, although Tucker said the plant will only be back at full capacity in May.

Rio closed the lines, two of four at the 100,000 tonne plant, in late December after a major power problem.

The company has earmarked the smelter, which was commissioned in the early 1940s, for permanent shutdown in December 2014.


The United Steelworkers union, which represents the more than 750 unionized workers at Alma, has sharply criticized Rio for the lockout and accused the mining giant of beginning "a major assault on workers and communities".   Continued...