MONTREAL – Management at the ABI aluminum smelter in Becancour, Que., agreed on Friday to restart negotiations with its 1,030 locked-out employees.
The announcement was made by Quebec Labour Minister Dominique Vien, who told reporters she had “satisfactory” meetings with both sides at her office in Quebec City.
“Very good meetings, we are very satisfied,” she said. “Both sides are aware of the economic issues and they are ready to sit down again.”
Management at the ABI smelter locked out its employees on Jan. 11. The smelter is 75 per cent owned by Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Corp. and 25 per cent by Montreal-headquartered Rio Tinto Alcan Inc.
A mediator is expected to contact both sides and schedule a meeting, Vien said, adding the dispute is between a private company and its employees and the government can’t interfere.
She said, however, that she asked both sides to choose representatives who are competent to negotiate and who have a mandate to reach a deal.
The union said Friday it has never stopped wanting to negotiate.
Alain Croteau, head of the Quebec section of the United Steelworkers, said “we have been waiting for a call for one month.”
Local union president Clement Masse said “as soon as the employer says they are ready to return to the negotiating tale, we will return.”
Masse said he’s ready to work on the company’s offer but he won’t submit the same one that was recently rejected by 80 per cent of his members.