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Solidarity grows for locked-out Quebec workers

Jesse McLaren

February 13, 2012

On New Year’s Eve, the mining giant Rio Tinto locked out 780 workers from its Alcan factory in Alma, Quebec—demanding every retiring worker be replaced with a contract worker at half the wages.

The company, one of the world’s largest aluminum suppliers, has been accused of bringing in scab labour by helicopter, and has received an injunction against workers for blocking access. Like the Caterpillar lockout in London, Rio Tinto Alcan is making profits at the same time it is demanding massive wage cuts from its workers.

But solidarity is growing. The local railway workers refused to cross picket lines to deliver raw materials, until they were suspended and threatened with being fired. The Steelworkers at Rio Tinto have received solidarity messages and funds from MUNAMA (McGill who recently ended a long strike), and from PSAC Quebec, and might be visited by locked-out London workers.

There has also been international solidarity from the International Metalworkers Federation and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Union—with support from unions in the US, UK, France, South Africa and Australia.

Amir Khadir, the Member of the National Assembly of Québec solidaire, has also visited the picket line to support the locked out workers, demanding the factory be nationalized and run by the workers themselves.

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