The resolution says in part that the members of the MRC
fact that the
decrease of aluminum production at the Alma plant [...] permits Rio
Tinto Alcan to sell the unused electricity to
Hydro-Quebec, rather than using it to sustain jobs...." (See below for
Mayor Asselin explained to the local newspaper that the mandate for the resolution comes from the regional referendum held in conjunction with municipal elections November 6, 2005 in which 92.5 per cent voted "yes" to the following question posed by the Regional Conference of Elected Officials of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean:
"Do you accept giving your municipality the mandate to reach an agreement with the Quebec government on the management of natural resources, based on the following two principles: that our natural resources (land, forest, water and mines), as well as the royalties paid for their use and the public jobs required to manage them, should be administered by the region; and that all the private energy, produced in the region for industrial purposes, should exclusively serve industrial development and the creation of jobs in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean?"
Mayor Asselin said that the result of the referendum cannot be ignored by Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
"It is a fact," he told Le Quotidien. "[The sale of Rio Tinto electricity to Hydro-Quebec] goes against the will of the population of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. We have said the same thing regarding the Jim Gray hydroelectric facility of Resolute Forest Products. The energy that is produced here must provide jobs to the people of the region. At the moment, there are close to 800 workers directly affected. I am told that the decrease in production at the plant has also led to 400 contract workers being laid off. The government must bring both parties to the table. The government knows what are the secret deals between Hydro-Quebec and Rio Tinto Alcan and it can use them to get the negotiations to resume."
Marc Maltais, President of the Syndicat des travailleurs d'aluminium d'Alma told TML Daily in an interview that the resolution opposing the energy transfer is important and timely:
"The fact that the Mayor and the City Council have taken such a stand, at a time when Rio Tinto is working so hard to project a profile of being socially responsible, is very important considering the fight that is ahead of us. To have the municipal authorities demanding that Charest intervene to get the negotiations going again is a big step and it is going to have an impact.... The workers have played a role in this because we made a very good presentation to the City Council earlier this week. We did it in a respectful and professional way. We see the resolution as the fruit of our effort and our sense of civic responsibility. We solicited the support of City Council on the basis of the strength of our arguments and they listened to our concerns."
The Mayor of Alma and City Council are planning to get
other municipal councils in the region to also pass the resolution, Le
Resolution Calling for
Quebec Premier to Intervene
Left to right: Guy Farrell, assistant to the Director of the Syndicat des Métallos; Mark Maltais, President of the Syndicat des travailleurs d'aluminium d'Alma; and Michel Ouimet, Executive Vice-President of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.
Guy Farrell, the assistant to the Director of the
Métallos thanked the CEP for its support. "Rio Tinto is not only
attacking our members in Alma but workers around the world when it
wrecks jobs in order to reap higher profits. This gesture of solidarity
is going to help the locked out workers last
one day longer, and that is the day that makes the difference."
Then, in a gesture without precedent, the workers of the
aluminum smelter in Becancour, Quebec, near Trois-Rivières,
voted to give close to $25,000 a week, until the end of the lockout.
This represents a contribution of about $25/week from each Becancour
worker. Clément Masse, the President
of Local 9700 USW which represents the Becancour workers, was in Alma
on February 9 to officially announce this long-term assistance.
Clément Masse, President of Local 9700 USW, visits Alma, February 9, 2012.
"I am very proud of the members of my local who unanimously decided to make this contribution," Clement Masse said. "That is the very basis of organized labour: the solidarity between workers. Workers must help each other because if we are waiting for the governments to do something for us we are going to wait forever. They are letting a multinational corporation impoverish a whole region without doing anything."
Masse expressed the hope that this financial assistance of close to $25,000 a week will trigger a wave of long-term financial support from other unions.
Marc Maltais, President of the Syndicat des travailleurs d'aluminium d'Alma (Local 9490 USW) expressed the workers' appreciation for the support.
"We don't know how long this conflict is going to last,"
said, adding that they hoped it is going to be as short as possible.
"But that kind of support helps us to look the company right in the eye
and tell them once again that they are not going to force us back to
work on our knees. When we say a future
of quality jobs in the region, we mean it!"
(CEP, Metallos; Photos: CEP, STAA, Eric
TML: Amongst the latest developments in the struggle of Alma is the expression of support from an increasing number of workers' organizations.
Marc Maltais: Yes, just to give you some of the most recent examples, we just received a donation of $25,000 from the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) and a donation of $25,000 a week from the aluminum smelter workers in Becancour until the end of the lockout. CUPE, the workers of the Rio Tinto port facilities in La Baie and others have also made financial contributions. It is not possible to name them all. The Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) [the second largest union central in Quebec -- TML] paid us a visit recently. That is important because CSN is the other half of organized labour in Quebec. They came here to tell us that at this time it is us in Alma who are on the front lines and everybody must stand with us because we are all facing the same kinds of attacks. From outside Quebec we just recently received the support of the Vancouver and District Labour Council. Internationally, the support is growing as well. Mining and metallurgical unions from Brazil, Turkey and Australia expressed support. The Rio Tinto European workers and two international federations of mining metallurgical workers wrote to Rio Tinto's Chief Executive Tom Albanese to denounce the lockout. The world campaign to oppose the lockout and demand that Rio Tinto go back to the bargaining table and sign an acceptable contract with us is going well, the coordination is good and we are going to announce actions soon. It is good that financial assistance is also coming because we have to be prepared for what may be a long battle.
This support is the sign that what is happening in Alma is happening everywhere; no one is immune. The corporations are acting in the same way all over the world. It also shows that the concerns we have are not some form of paranoia; the growing support gives credibility to our struggle and of course gives us courage. When we went to visit the workers in Becancour, you should have seen the warm reception we received. They had orange T-shirts just like ours with the same slogans and when our delegation entered the hall, we got a standing ovation. Back in Alma, I talked about that on the picket lines and for us that was as important as the financial assistance.
TML: You were very pleased that the Alma City Council took the initiative to present a resolution to municipal regional authorities to oppose the sale of Rio Tinto hydro to Hydro-Quebec.
MM: That is very encouraging. This is one of our main demands in this fight that Rio Tinto should not be allowed to sell its hydro to Hydro-Quebec during the lockout. The fact that the Mayor and the City Council have taken such a stand, at a time when Rio Tinto is working so hard to project a profile of being socially responsible, is very important considering the fight that is ahead of us. To have the municipal authorities demanding that Charest intervene to get the negotiations going again is a big step and it is going to have an impact. I consider this to be as important as the support from the unions. The workers have played a role in this because we made a very good presentation to the City Council earlier this week. We did it in a respectful and professional way. We see the resolution as the fruit of our effort and our sense of civic responsibility. We solicited the support of City Council on the basis of the strength of our arguments and they listened to our concerns.
TML: Is there any sign from Rio Tinto that it wants to go back to the bargaining table and address the concerns of the workers?
MM: Not at all. Far from it, Jean Simon, the President of Rio Tinto Primary Metal in a speech in Quebec City said that the company is not going to make a move and is maintaining its hard line. We are meeting the mediator on February 13 but we don't have great expectations. What we are going to tell him he already knows. We are going to tell him that we want to go back to the table and sign a contact that is acceptable but we have no one to talk to there.
TML: The union is saying that in essence this is a struggle for the recognition of the union as the legitimate organization that represents the workers. Can you elaborate?
MM: We went through two mediation processes and even the mediation report concludes that in terms of labour relations the union has no influence on what the employer is doing, that the employer is not listening to us and that it is actually saying we are not going to have any influence on its actions. The company complained that the language we used in our newsletter was offensive. We said, okay, and have made sure that our language now is very polite, but the company has responded with even more attacks. It is in the day to day, daily life at the plant that we see that they are not listening to us and they do not recognize us. We have several joint committees that are recognized in the collective agreement and what are they there for if not to influence your interlocutor. These joint committees have nothing joint about them. If we are not going to have any influence on what the employer is doing then we are just wasting our time.
TML: Rio Tinto has stepped up its propaganda according to which with your demands you are blocking people's access to jobs in the region, that you want to keep everything in your hands and that you are blocking the building of regional expertise. How do you respond to that?
MM: I would say that first we laugh because it is such a smokescreen. We are the biggest promoters of the industrial clusters that are being built in the region. We are the biggest promoters of the companies that offer the expertise that we don't have, that provide services that we don't, that make parts for the plant, that have built an expertise that is unique in the world. This is our pride that we have built an expertise in the region that is somehow unique. The only economic activity that we want to restrict is the transformation of quality jobs into cheap labour. We are opposing the attacks on our jobs and our working conditions. Many workers who work for these contractors are actually supporting our struggle. That is the old broken record of the company to say that we are opposed to development and modernization.
TML: You say that in your fight you have to present demands that should actually be upheld by the governments.
MM: Yes and I have even accused the Charest government of being an accomplice to the lockout. We are forced to do the work that the government should be doing: protecting quality jobs. The government could have done it when the time came to renew Rio Tinto's leases on the hydro power of our rivers but it did not do it. Here we are, 780 workers with this stress on our shoulders fighting not only a company but a government that is in cahoots with it. We would have preferred to fight just for our trade union mandate to defend the workers but we have to go beyond that because workers are also citizens and since the Quebec government is not protecting the citizens we say that our members must also be defended as citizens. Through them we are defending their children and the whole community. That tells us how important it is that we get all the support we can.
TML: What do you want to say in conclusion?
MM: We are all facing the same problems and we need the support of all the unions in Canada and in the world. We are all facing frontal attacks from the global corporations. They are all attacking us at the same time, and without support we are too small. We have to work together irrespective of our trade union affiliations. We all have the common aim of having strong trade unions and to continue living in a country that is democratic. We do not always agree on the how but we agree on the why we are fighting. All workers must support each other. That is the message."
(Translated from original French by
Quebec's Northern Plan
On Sunday, February 5 Jean Charest held a press conference in Montreal with Pierre Arcand, Minister of Sustainable Development. He unveiled his government's strategy to protect 50 per cent of the Northern Plan's territory from industrial activities by 2035. Twenty per cent of the area has been designated as areas that will be protected by 2020. The proposed area includes 12 per cent of Quebec's "boreal forest blanket." Charest also presented six new directives for sustainable development. The latter came out of a public consultation held from August to November in 2011, with partners of the Northern Plan.
For the 30 per cent of the land not yet "protected" between 2020 and 2035, Charest said that seven pilot projects would be put in place to explore new ways to combine environmental protection and non-industrial development and to improve ecological and environmental knowledge of the northern lands. These would be "important steps in collaboration with the inhabitants of the land, particularly the First Nations," he said.
Click for full-size map in PDF format.
According to the map of the territory presented, most of the protected areas are the urban perimeters of the Inuit villages of Ungava Bay and Hudson Bay. In addition to these, a few areas are protected for their unique environmental and ecological characteristics. The latter are all located in the extreme northern part of the Northern Plan's territory, with no existing access roads, and are therefore not highly threatened.
With regard to the boreal forest, Charest has introduced an undefined notion, that of the "boreal forest blanket." What does he mean? The boreal forest in the Northern Plan territory extends from the 49th to the 52nd parallel. Logging is prohibited above the 50th parallel under existing Quebec law.
According to Charest's latest proposals, this 12 per
cent of Quebec's boreal forest would be protected. Charest
speaks of prohibiting industrial activities but not all commercial and
non-industrial activities. So what kind of protection are we talking
about? Will this protected boreal forest
territory be located between the 50th and 52nd parallel where logging
is already prohibited? Is Charest bowing to the forestry monopolies in
Roads, power lines, levees and dams, tourism and outfitters are not defined as industrial activities. Without significant changes to the current laws, their construction and operation are still permitted. The current construction of Highway 167, before any public environmental consultations were held, is the proof.
On January 18, the Regional County Municipality of the Upper North Coast presented a brief to the Office of Public Hearings on the Environment (BAPE) opposing the Charest government's measures to protect the boreal forest from industrial activities and logging.
On January 19, CBC Radio in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean
carried a declaration of the Quebec Forestry Counsel that "the
territory above the northern limits is a place to protect habitats and
practice conservation without harming logging. [...] Let us meet the
environmental objectives by as much as possible
placing the protected areas to the north of the northern limit [i.e., the 50th
parallel, where logging is already prohibited], where it will
not disturb industrial activities."
After the press conference Charest told journalists that, "All projects on the Northern Plan territories will be governed by the BAPE," while the press release says, "All industrial projects will be submitted to the BAPE."
Charest is again trying to confuse Quebeckers as to his real intentions for the Northern Plan. With respect to the mining industry, he spoke about laws to come on mining and the environment -- laws that are still being discussed and elaborated. In the past, such laws have never questioned industrial activities such as mining or other commercial activities.
and his government are behind the
times compared to Quebeckers. For years Quebeckers have been
demanding to participate in the decision-making process regarding
Quebec's future. Quebec's Auditor General noted in his 2009 report that
the fact that the government does not make public all the facts
concerning the mining industry means that people can't really
appreciate the consequences of the plan put forward. The report said,
"This situation neither favours participation and engagement, nor
access to knowledge, two of the principles enunciated in Quebec's Sustainable Development Act." He
even recommended that the government
move from consultations to the active, informed and
conscious participation of the Quebec people, for harmonious and
development, respecting the rights of the First Nations and the Quebec
(Translated from original French by
The Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council has called for a Community Rally in support of the striking Halifax Transit workers, on Sunday, February 12 at 1:00 pm at Grand Parade in front of City Hall. After the rally, everyone is invited to the Amalgamated Transit Union office in Dartmouth for a solidarity BBQ.
In their call for the rally the Labour Council writes: "The transit strike is still ongoing, and it appears Halifax Regional Municipality's Water Workers may be heading toward a strike as well in the very near future. We want to show support for our transit workers and water workers and tell Halifax Regional Municipality to protect public services and sign a fair deal."
All Out to Support the Halifax Transit Workers!
Lockout of Newfoundland Trawlermen
TML Daily denounces the role played by the RCMP in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland on February 8, to protect the scabs recruited by Ocean Choice International (OCI) after it locked out its trawlermen on February 6. The RCMP were brought in to ensure the scabs could board OCI's trawler the Newfoundland Lynx. Though it is not at all unexpected to see police mobilized to defend private corporate interests against the workers and assaulting workers for defending their rights, it is outrageous nonetheless. The Newfoundland Lynx has since set sail.
Press reports indicate that "rumours started around midnight that the bus with replacement workers was coming back to Bay Roberts. Almost instantly a relatively calm night became busier and tensions began mounting among the picketers. RCMP moved in more members with a two-line formation of officers down the entrance to Moorfrost [Cold Storage]. The bus arrived just before 2:00 with a large police escort, and workers stood across the street not letting it go by. Almost two hours later, the bus made its first move forward but was stalled again. Shortly before 4:30 the bus began moving forward, and the Mounties started arresting people. The bus stopped in front of the entrance, police lining up in front, as the replacement workers got off, running down towards the Newfoundland Lynx, as the striking [locked out -- TML Ed.] workers looked on."
Dave Decker, Secretary-Treasurer of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers said about 20 people were taken away in police cruisers. He denounced the company's plan to set sail with scabs in the early hours of the morning when the public was not there to witness what they were doing. Staff Sgt. Bud Bennett with the Trinity-Conception District is quoted as saying "there were no altercations." If that don't beat all!
OCI is trying to divert attention from its unjust treatment of its workers by claiming that its use of "replacement workers," as its scabs are euphemistically called, provides jobs to Newfoundlanders! It should settle the workers' demands properly instead of locking them out and using police to attack them. In December, OCI announced the permanent closure of two plants, in Marystown and Port Union, Newfoundland, which employed about 240 and 170 people respectively. These plants were a vital part of the local economies.
Support the Newfoundland Trawlermen!
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