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Thousands in the Street in Support of Alma's workers

Worldwide Solidarity against Rio Tinto.


Thousands in the Street in Support of Alma's workers
Thousands in the Street in Support of Alma's workers

Also posted by juan:

Mass Rally in Alma, Quebec

Glorious Day in Alma Affirms the Need to Build the New and Stake Our Claim on the Future


On March 31, more than 8,000 workers and people from all walks of life answered the call of the locked-out Rio Tinto workers to join them in a mass demonstration in Alma, Quebec to defend their rights and the rights of all. Locked-out for three months, the Rio Tinto workers in Alma are militantly rejecting Rio Tinto's dictate to subcontract jobs and thereby establish two-tier wages and a non-union plant.

Recognizing that this fight is their fight, workers came from many regions of Quebec, as well as from Kitimat, British Columbia, Hamilton and Toronto. They joined workers' families and members of local communities whose future is affected by the dictate of Rio Tinto to use local resources without making commitments to the community or the region. Many workers from Alma came with their families highlighting that their fight is to build a future for the coming generations. Students on strike in defence of the right to an education for all also came from many regions of Quebec.

Also present were contingents representing international mining and metallurgical workers' federations as well as unions from the U.S., Mexico, France, UK, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. From March 30 to April 1 a joint meeting was held in Alma of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) and of the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF). The meeting was moved to Alma from its originally planned location to support the Alma struggle.

Amidst the sea of people were numerous signs denouncing the secret deal signed in 2007 between the Charest government, Hydro-Québec and Rio Tinto that among other things declares a lockout a force majeure that allows Rio Tinto to violate any contractual obligations and states that Hydro-Québec is to buy all unused hydro by Rio Tinto Alcan during the lockout therefore financing Rio Tinto for locking out its workers. Many others bore slogans condemning the Charest government's sell out of Quebec's interests and its resources to the monopolies and demanded that this government be held to account.

People gathered for speeches at the Galeries Lac-St-Jean before taking to the streets in a march that was estimated at one kilometre-long from end to end. Support from the local population was palpable with people waving and wishing success to the struggle all along the route. The march ended at the Festivalma amphitheatre, the city's main public venue. Speeches emphasized that the fight of the Alma workers against Rio Tinto's offensive to lower working and living conditions, smash the union and abuse the region and Quebec is the fight of all. Rio Tinto's track record of attacks against workers and unions worldwide was also condemned.

The exhilarating day came to a close with a performance of "Debout sur les lignes" by locked-out worker and singer-songwriter Guy Laroche. The song, which expresses the dignity that comes from the fight in defence of workers' rights, has become very popular throughout the region. Amidst live music and food, the workers exchanged views on the day's events and pledged to fight until their just demands are met.







The Spirit of the Alma Demonstration Lives On

Early Saturday morning, we left the Outaouais for the historic rally in Alma -- one of us, a public sector worker, the other, a forestry worker -- to join 8,000 others. Eight thousand standing shoulder to shoulder with 785. Why?

The situation in Alma is a harsh reminder that monopolies such as Rio Tinto have it in for us. Every day they bring plant closures, job terminations and lockouts. The monopolies have set aside any pretence of social responsibility to reveal their true nature, that of grabbing our human and natural resources, using everything as if everything belonged to them -- as if workers, peoples and nations can be disposed of at a whim. These are no longer the "same old, same old" days: the class enemy has dropped its gloves and has left us with no choice but to drop ours and to affirm with one voice: "Enough is enough!" A new phase has evolved in which everything begins anew, in which we set aside our union colours or whatever differences to confront these criminal monopolies as a united force.

In response to this demonstration of solidarity -- spouses, children, family and community members, friends, students and workers from across the country and around the world stood by the Alma workers -- the spokesperson for Rio Tinto, Claudine Gagnon, declared: "This is definitely not going to get us any closer." Essentially repeating the failed language on Rio Tinto's website, she goes on to say that: "The conflict is in Alma," by which she means that there is no need for workers to denounce Rio Tinto's criminal activity on the world scale. "What we at Rio Tinto want is to run a plant and to have a collective agreement," she adds. Ms. Gagnon is definitely out of touch, seeing as the same helicopters that have for weeks flown managers and scabs in and out of the plant flew overhead throughout the whole demonstration. What you really "want" Ms. Gagnon, is slave labour, no collective agreement or union whatsoever and no accounts to render to governments or communities alike. You have no use for "natives" such as ourselves. The answer to your nonsense is given in the song written by a Rio Tinto aluminum worker for the occasion:

"I'd rather be on the picket line
Than on my knees inside the plant
I don't feel alone despite the cold
Since I have the support of the entire planet."

The question of taking control of our economy, of our resources and of our destiny is the order of the day. The international dimension of the Alma rally has highlighted in no uncertain terms that the working class is one and that it must organize to block the Rio Tintos of this world and in so doing, block all attempts at dividing our ranks and at pitting worker against worker in the monopolies' drive for imperialist domination and wars.

Such was the spirit of the March 31 rally in Alma.




Dignity, Defiance and Organization of the Alma Aluminum Workers

The spirit of the Alma aluminum workers, locked out since last December 31 by Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) is highly appreciated. On March 31 more than 8,000 workers flooded the streets of the city of 15,000 inhabitants. By comparison, this would be a demonstration of one million people in Montreal. The majority came from the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region; several buses came from the cities of Quebec, some from the Toronto region and Hamilton and international delegations were also present. The 8,000 people who came affirmed that they do not accept the dictate of a foreign company on the lives of communities like the small town of Alma. The March 31 demonstration will be etched in the collective memory of the working class of Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean and will go down as an historic event in the history of the workers' movement in the region. The significance of this march can be summed up in three words: dignity, defiance and organization.

Dignity because the aluminum workers are defending not only themselves but also the generations of workers to follow. Dignity because they refuse to submit to the worsened conditions, refuse to become modern day slaves. They refuse to be kicked out of their factory by mercenaries in the service of the monopolies without protest and on their knees. The Alma workers know well the criminal actions of Rio Tinto around the world. They know because the workers from other continents tell of the atrocities committed by Rio Tinto, its anti-worker and anti-union activities in the mines and factories in Australia, the United States and England, among others. They also know through the experience of their own comrades sent to Rio Tinto facilities in the Middle East and Africa. Some workers, during the march, described what they saw with their own eyes on these two continents. They saw the lot that Rio Tinto reserves for the Filipino, Turkish, Arab and African workers -- slave conditions unworthy of any human being. But mostly they know what Rio Tinto demands and wants to further subject Quebec and their region to, where it has several facilities. The March 31 demonstration was a march for the dignity of labour and the working class.

Defiance because the Alma workers' courage resonates as a challenge to the monopolies that not only do they reject terror as a way forward, but they ardently defend the rights of the aluminum workers to decide what should be done with the wealth created by their work and the natural resources linked to it. Regardless of, for the moment, where and how to invest the natural wealth such as the electricity produced by the Rio Tinto dams, it must not end up in the hands of the monopoly. All proposals can be discussed and developed except those which put more of our resources and our labour in Rio Tinto's coffers. Defiance because the Alma workers demand the Quebec government render accounts for, as union president Marc Maltais said in his speech, permitting a foreign company to attack a community and its workers while doing nothing. The March 31 demonstration reflects in practice the Alma workers' struggle to restrict monopoly right and that of its political representatives.

Organization, not only because the march was a success all down the line, but also that it's the result of collective work in which each person had their place and responsibility. The question of mobilization, security, infrastructure, the route, the cleanup, logistics, the speeches, the costs, the concert... were taken up in detail by involving the greatest number of people possible. Even the prospect of confronting Rio Tinto's agents provocateurs was considered with utmost seriousness and preparation. The March 31 demonstration in Alma was one of discipline and organization, where the working class calmly faces the new situation with full confidence. This march was an invaluable experience in the Alma workers' fight against Rio Tinto's phony lockout and in recognition of their rights.

Bravo Alma workers! No to the phony Rio Tinto lockout! Stand United Against Rio Tinto in Alma!

(Translated from original French by TML Daily)




For Your Information

National and International Labour Organizations Reiterate Opposition to Rio Tinto's
Monopoly Wrecking

Guy Farrell, Marc Maltais

The international action in Alma to support the locked out Rio Tinto workers featured speeches by representatives of various national and international labour organizations, as well as local politicians. The events began with an opening rally, emceed by Guy Farrell, Assistant to the Director of USW District 5, followed by introductory remarks by Marc Maltais, President of Syndicat des travailleurs de l'aluminium d'Alma, Local 9490 USW. In his opening remarks, Maltais stated in part, "Thank you very much for being here in such large numbers, for answering our call for solidarity. It is an honour for us, for the people of Alma to receive you in our beautiful city in the beautiful Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region." The opening rally was followed by a march through the streets of Alma, ending at the Festivalma amphitheatre, where events finished with a closing rally. Posted below are excerpts from the speeches made throughout the day.

Jyrki Rayna, General Secretary, International Metalworkers' Federation: It is a great honour and pleasure for me to greet you and bring you a message of solidarity from metalworkers from all over the globe. Greetings on behalf of our new global union that is going to be created in June and will represent 50 million industrial workers in 140 countries. We are here to express our full support for your just struggle and for the Métallos demands because they are fair, reasonable and just. Rio Tinto is a cynical multinational whose philosophy is to maximize profits and dividends and reduce labour costs. Rio Tinto must keep in mind that its profits come from the work of the workers and from the communities in which it operates. Last year this company made a net profit of $6 billion. They have no justification in these circumstances for replacing good permanent jobs with subcontracted ones where workers are paid 50 per cent less, have less benefits and where the community is losing. We need good permanent jobs. We admire your great mobilization and your courage. We are here now to transform your local struggle into a global struggle. Together we are strong, together we are going to launch this world campaign to force Rio Tinto to respect its workers across the globe. You are not alone! We are with you! We the workers of the world are going to fight side by side with you until you win, until you get a fair collective agreement.

Manfred Warda, General-Secretary, International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM): On behalf of the 20 million workers who are affiliated with ICEM, I came here to tell you that we are supporting your struggle. ICEM is saying No to this attack by Rio Tinto against the standard of living of the Canadian workers. Shame on Rio Tinto that made $15 billion in [gross] profits in 2011 but is trying to reduce your benefits, which means less job security, less trade union protection, less income and less benefits. Shame on Rio Tinto's CEO Tom Albanese who pocketed [...] millions of dollars but does not give a damn about your families, your communities and your history. Shame on the Harper government that spent the last year relinquishing control over natural resources and allowed multinationals to [...] attack the industries. We are ready to give the Métallos all possible support during this dispute. Many of our workers have been involved in conflicts with this company. If Rio Tinto is able to get what it wants from you then this means less hope of success when others come under attack. Your fight is part of the global fight against Rio Tinto. We need the global solidarity of all the unions in the world. We are impressed by your determination and you can be sure that we are going to be together in this common action against Rio Tinto. Everywhere in the world we are going to shame this company until it agrees to stop its attacks against workers, their communities and their unions.

Alexandre Cloutier, MNA, Lac-St-Jean, Parti Québécois: I am here with a group of MNAs of the region. We are here to express our solidarity of course with the workers but also with the community because you came here in large numbers today answering the call of the workers. We are proud of you, we are proud of you Marc, we are proud of the debate and the issues that you have raised and defended. We are proud to see you standing up and being proud of what you are doing. We have been making aluminum in Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean since 1925; our region is the main aluminum producer in North America. Your grandparents and your parents made aluminum; today you are the ones making aluminum and our hope is that our children and grandchildren are also going to make aluminum and enjoy good working conditions and good wages. If we accept that Rio Tinto controls the level of water of Lac-St-Jean as is the case now, if we accept that Rio Tinto produces hydro with our most beautiful rivers and if we keep accepting that Rio Tinto owns over 30 km of the Saguenay, it is because in the past there were quality jobs in return. The problem today is that there was a time when we had 12,000 jobs [at Alcan] but then that went down to 10,000, then 8,000, 7,000 and 6,000 and now we are down to less than 5,000 jobs. We have to put our foot down and say "Enough is Enough!" The problem today with the multinationals is that they are only interested in their bottom line, the profits. They do not take into account the social conditions, the workers, the communities and in this the government has a key role to play. In your negotiations, which are going relatively well, remember all those who are with you today and always keep in mind that we are there with you.

Claude Patry, MP, Jonquière-Alma, NDP: It is a memorable day today, there are many different union centrals but we are all here for the same aim, for solidarity with the workers in Alma. I admire your President, he made a good international tour, there are some who criticized him but when you fight against a multinational you have to get international support and he understood that. You are acting in a disciplined way, your actions are always proper, you have earned the respect of the people and I support you. The NDP supports you. I am asking the government to sit with Rio Tinto and tell the company that their hydro privileges are illegal because we the workers are like David fighting against Goliath.

This money from hydro that goes to RTA during the lockout should go to the region, it should be put in the pension funds of the workers because we are all Alcan workers and we are all going to retire at some point. Today we don't come here with different trade union colours. I remember when we tried to get both the federal and provincial governments of the time to put a strict framework on the sale of Alcan to Rio Tinto; both governments refused to do it. Now I hope things are going to change. We have MPs and MNAs here, we are fed up with the way things are going. We said in the regional referendum in 2005 that we want to recapture our natural resources and we want to manage how they are being used.

Louis Roy, President, Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN): The multinationals have damaged our health, they have taken our lives and today they would like to take our jobs? Our answer in NO! For 200 years the unions are the organizations that have looked after their members. We are taking care of our people, our co-workers, our families, our regions. We are that solidarity! The big bosses would like us to tear each other apart, to not work together but only for ourselves. Today we are showing them that when they attack us on sensitive issues for the working class, all the unions answer "Present!" All the unions across the globe are going to stand with the Alma workers. Why? It is because these big companies want to break the trade union unity in each factory. They want to divide the unions by giving to subcontractors the jobs we won with great difficulty with our fights, with our strikes over so many years. They want to force us to our knees but they are going to fail. Everywhere in the world, whenever there is a struggle in defence of the basic rights of the unions, we must all give the same answer. Today it is in Alma, tomorrow everywhere in the world. Solidarity!

Ed Abreu, President, CAW Local 2301, Rio Tinto Smelter, Kitimat, BC: Our members to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters here, are giving two hours of pay every month until July. I am here to present the cheque, the first one, for $68,000.

Ken Lewenza, President, Canadian Auto Workers: First I want to recognize on behalf of the labour movement the students in Quebec who are fighting for reasonable, accessible education in Quebec, with the expectations of having a good job, a decent job, that pays good wages, good benefits and good security. And then when you take a look at Rio Tinto's membership today, 780 families are fighting for the next generation to receive good wages, good pensions, good working conditions. Today we fight together, young people in their classes, seniors for pensions and workers for decent jobs and decent wages and decent benefits. My message is to Rio Tinto. Today is a demonstration for good jobs, for good future. Rio Tinto is making billions and billions of dollars in profits and they are saying to the next generation of workers you must work for less -- this is [...] immoral [...]. This is not about the United Steelworkers, this is not about students, it is about what kind of a nation we want in Quebec and what kind of a nation we want in Canada. Today's multinational corporations that exploit workers, we are going to fight back with a collective voice, we are going to fight back for our country and we are going to fight back for good decent jobs in Quebec. On top of the amount from Local 2301, here is $25,000 from the CAW.

Hassan Yussuff, Secretary-Treasurer, Canadian Labour Congress: How is it that corporations that make billions and billions in profits continue to demand that workers go backward and reduce their wages, their benefits and their pensions? This is unjustified and we are not going to let it happen across the country and we will stand with you in solidarity.

Where is our national government, where is our Prime Minister? They don't miss an opportunity to legislate workers when they decide to exercise their right to strike but where is the government to stand up for the workers in Alma? Where is Stephen Harper? Today the river that flows generates the power that Rio Tinto is using to lockout the workers; the time is coming now to take back our power. Right across the country, whether it is the workers in Sudbury or the workers in Hamilton or most recently the workers in London from Caterpillar, workers are fighting the same battles over and over. We will stand together, because the future of this country depends on this struggle. We must win this because the next generation must have hope they can have a better future.

Napoléon Gomez, General Secretary, Mexican Union Los Mineros: For three months you have been facing difficulties, threats and repression by Rio Tinto. I come from a similar conflict in Mexico, for six years we have been fighting for justice and dignity for us and for all the workers of Mexico and of the world. [...] We need international solidarity, we are working together -- solidarity knows no borders. We are facing rabid global capitalism which is trying to wipe out the rights of workers. But ambition and greed are not able to win this war against the workers. We must defend our rights, our wages, our families. If Rio Tinto has a problem with the local union in Alma, it is going to have a problem with all the workers of the world. We are not going to tolerate the aggressions and the terrorism of the companies against the workers.

Ken Neumann, National Director for Canada, United Steelworkers: You are on the front lines of the fight against corporate greed, you stand up for the workers and you are also making a stand for the communities and you are also taking a stand to make sure that we are here for the next generations. You should be complimented for your solidarity, your vision and I can assure you on behalf of the labour movement, the steelworkers, our International Executive Board, our President Leo Gerard, we are going to stand with you every day, we are going to be with you right to the end to bring  Rio Tinto back to the bargaining table and negotiate a collective agreement that is decent and fair, that is going to respect Quebec, that is going to respect the natural resources. Solidarity for all of us. I also want to say: When companies come in and buy out natural resources and these great commodities, aluminum or steel or mining, they do not have the right to take that from us. That belongs to us. There should be a net benefit for Canada and why is the Canadian government allowing them to go ahead and why is the government closing their eyes and is not making sure that there is going to be a net benefit for Canada. Where is the net benefit if they are allowed to get away this -- trying to reduce the salaries for the next generation by 50 per cent?

Mick Carr, Secretary, Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), Queensland: You are not alone. The eyes of the world are on Rio Tinto. Rio Tinto has been exposed. Workers are standing with workers all over the globe. We are very impressed by the strength of your resolve. Your recent tour in Australia and New Zealand was very successful. Our union has already raised $25,000 to support your struggle. [...] Rio Tinto has a history of attacking workers everywhere -- Australia, Bolivia, Namibia, USA. It has an abysmal record of human rights violations and it has not stopped up to today. Rio Tinto is using the beautiful natural resources of your country and is giving nothing back to the workers and your community here in Alma.

Liam O'Brien, Vice-President, Australian Workers' Union (AWU), Victoria: Our workers are standing shoulder to shoulder with you today. Everywhere in the world the story with Rio Tinto is the same. It is a story of exploiting workers and depriving communities. It is a story we are all too familiar with. Fifteen years ago Rio Tinto deunionzed and busted the union in Tasmania. Today that workplace is being reorganized. We are doing it because after 15 years workers have lost up to $30,000 a year and that is exactly why Rio Tinto is attacking you. They want what you have got. They want your solidarity, they want your union to be taken away from you. The eyes of the world should remain on Alma until Rio Tinto does the right thing and gives you back your jobs and maintains good decent jobs for all workers in the future.

Ian Murray, Vice-President, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), Australia: First of all, congratulations for a marvellous demonstration. We are glad to be here today in person. On the other side of the world, in Australia today, there are actions being organized today in conjunction with your actions. On the other side of the world, the Alma story is being told. We will not give up. For 20 years we have been demanding in different areas that Rio Tinto shows respect to its workforce, acts as a decent corporate community person and does the right thing. It does not matter where in the world, Rio Tinto has been attacking workers since its inception. In many cases, Rio Tinto has been defeated because workers of the world have united. We will continue to fight. You have our honest commitment to that. My union executive met before we left and we are here today with $50,000 to support your campaign.

Véronique Roche, Secretary, Rio Tinto European Works Council: I had to travel 6,000 kilometres to come to get the right information. [Rio Tinto CEO] Tom Albanese told me a month ago that I did not have the right information, that we are not sharing the same information. I was able to see that Rio Tinto has thrown onto the streets 778 workers because they are unionized. It is totally discriminatory. Shame on Rio Tinto. Shame on the non-unionized managers who stole your work. These managers better wake up because today they are overpaid to do your work, tomorrow they'll be gone too. On April 4, I will be back in Paris for a meeting of the Rio Tinto European Works Council this time to deal with the loss of 700 jobs that Rio Tinto does not want anymore. We are going to try to protect these jobs. I am going to tell Tom Albanese that he has won a new bonus and this one he can keep. He has woken up the workers and the unions of the world and the struggle is just beginning, the struggle for jobs, for training, for good working conditions. We have to stop that -- people thrown onto the streets by security goons, in Alma, in France and elsewhere. This movement you have initiated, it is global.

Emmanuel Zakwe, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), South Africa: We are here today to tell you that your struggle is a march on the road to freedom. We want to make the point that all over the world Rio Tinto will feel your presence. [...] So the message to Rio Tinto is that this is a direct attack on the working class in the world. We are saying to Rio Tinto enough is enough. They must take the decision to bring workers back to work and provide them with good conditions.

Willie Adams, International Secretary  Treasurer, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU): You represent the true essence of working class heroes. I want to commend you for your courage, your fortitude. This is about principles. Your ancestors are the ones who gave you those principles in life. What is happening here in Alma with the men and women standing up to Rio Tinto -- Rio Tinto has money but we have something more valuable than money. You have a cause. You have got to win the struggle. We were locked out by Rio Tinto in 2010. The struggle took nine months. Be patient. Do what you are doing now. Be focused. You are going to win. We beat Rio Tinto in 2010 and the reason we did was because of international solidarity, the fortitude and the members believed in themselves. Rio Tinto can be defeated.

Paul Reuter, National Officer for Metals, Unite, United Kingdom: I am proud of standing here with students who believe that education is a matter of right not of affordability. What Rio Tinto is doing here is part of a global assault on working people. I am here to say that that global assault will receive a global response. We will take your campaign to the shareholders and onto the streets of London. Let's make sure we win this dispute and the next dispute and the next dispute. We will protect jobs and working conditions in the future together. We will make sure that education is a matter of right and not affordability together. And together in solidarity we will win.

Dave Coles, President, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada: CEP is going to be here as long as it takes. Our message is this, "It will take time, it will take energy, it will take money and we will commit all of that."

Michel Arsenault, President, Quebec Federation of Labour: This is an historic day. In the history of the labour movement in Quebec, it is the first time that in a dispute in the private sector, we have global international solidarity like we have here today. Thanks to all the international delegations and delegations from the rest of Canada. There is no language barrier when we are talking solidarity. You are waging this historic battle for the coming generations, you are waging this historic battle also for the regional economy which is a very important issue in Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean. At the same time, the Quebec students are waging a battle so that everybody has the right to an education, an education for all. In the 1950s, education was the preserve of the elite and those entering the clergy. The middle class and the poor had no access to education and there is no way we are going to go back to those days. But when these youth leave school they must have good jobs, with good wages -- that is what we are fighting for today. We won't accept that in Alma or anywhere else in Quebec there are second class workers. Your contract, your working conditions must apply to all workers working there. An important player in this dispute is the Quebec government. I am calling upon Premier Charest and Natural Resources Minister Clement Gignac to do to Rio Tinto what was done to Resolute Forest Products, to cut off their access to our rivers. How can it be explained that the Quebec government signed a deal with Rio Tinto calling a lockout an "act of God"? Because RTA is locking you out, the people of Quebec are paying between $10-15 million a month for hydro we don't need. Who is in charge of Quebec? Who is running Quebec? Is it the governments we are electing or Rio Tinto? Charest and Gignac must do to Rio Tinto what they did to Resolute and not give Rio Tinto $10-15 million a month -- Hydro-Québec belongs to us.

Because of this fight, we are talking more and more to one another, in the labour movement in Quebec and elsewhere. That is very important.

Daniel Roy, Director, District 5, Syndicat des Métallos: The workers of Local 9490 USW were illegally locked out one day before the legal date for a lockout. These workers are fighting for quality jobs for the future generations. Let us all applaud these workers, they are not fighting for themselves, they are not fighting for wages, they are fighting for the coming generations who are here [points to children on stage with him]. I am proud of the battle that our members are waging, to make sure that these children, our future, have quality jobs. Rio Tinto with the complicity of the Quebec government, through Hydro-Québec, which is our collective asset, has decided to let Alcan have its own dams in the region. That was for one reason and one reason only: to build quality jobs in the region, to have jobs for the men and women of the region, to have a strong economy. This social pact is now broken, totally smashed. This tool that was supposed to develop jobs is now being used against the workers. This is obscene! According to this deal, Hydro-Québec has to buy the hydro surplus that Rio Tinto is not using at 4.5 cents a kWh when we know that it is costing them one cent per kWh to produce the hydro. This is four times the price. This government has taken us hostage -- all the Quebec people are indirectly contributing to finance a labour dispute that Rio Tinto has decided to organize, and this is possible because the Quebec government has signed that secret deal. We have to speak out everywhere. If this is the way that they want to develop the Northern Plan, then it won't make any sense. [Hydro] is supposed to be a collective tool to develop employment and it is being used against the workers.

This was the first part of our global campaign, we went to the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. If this company does not concede and maintain quality jobs, we have other things in preparation, we are not going to stop. For example, there is an upcoming meeting of the shareholders in London, they are going to hear from us. Also yesterday, I sent letters to Jean Charest, Marcel Aubut the Chair of the Canadian Olympic Committee and to Régis Labeaume the Mayor of Quebec, because we just learned that the medals for the next Olympic games in London are going to be made in Utah at Kennecott Copper. This smelter is unionized with the USW. We have the support of the union local to try to prevent the Olympic athletes from wearing medals that are made by Rio Tinto. When Charest calls an election, there is going to be an orange bus that follows him everywhere he goes.

Some of the executive of the Alma workers' union at the March 31 rally, left to right: President Marc Maltais,
Vice-President Hugues Villeneuve, Finance-Secretary Patrice Harvey, Grievance Officer Alexandre Frechette.

Marc Maltais, President of Syndicat des travailleurs de l`aluminium d'Alma, Local 9490 USW: You look great in orange! My first word is to the locked-out workers, men and women who are fighting bravely against a multinational that is much stronger in terms of money. Look around, at your co-workers, your friends, at the unions that came from everywhere, at the community groups, all these people are here for one reason, to support us, to show us that we are not alone. To those who are here today to support us, look around at those who are bravely fighting today, not for us as we said it, not for wages or pensions. In spite of the reputation they are trying to give us that we are just spoiled, we are fighting for a community, a community that is under attack. Since the 1980s we have been through closures of factories especially sawmills and pulp and paper facilities, one after the other. What have we got left here if not a number of decent jobs that we have to protect? As a matter of respect for our predecessors, our grandfathers, our fathers who fought so hard and made huge sacrifices so that we have the working conditions and the living standard we have today, as a matter of respect for those past generations, we have no right to concede anything today. We have a responsibility towards the coming generations, the students, the generations of tomorrow. We do not have the right to leave them with less than what we have today. We do not have the right to leave them with a lesser future than the one we have. We are fighting to make sure this does not happen. Today there are no language or cultural differences. There is one aim, solidarity. Thanks to all who work with this spirit of sacrifice to make this struggle a success. Financial support is coming non-stop. I have two pages of contributions but there is no time to read it now. All of you are an inspiration for all of us, thank you all.

The Quebec government, how can they pretend to be neutral when your community is being attacked by a multinational and foreign interests? How can a government plead neutrality when it allows this to happen, that it allows hydro that is supposed to be used for industrial purposes to be used to finance this lockout? Our message is clear. The Quebec government has the responsibility to protect its population, its citizens and its economy. Rio Tinto is duty-bound to come back to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith a collective agreement with us. The most important message is that we are going to hold on until we win. Let us go back to the regions, circulate the petition demanding that Hydro-Québec stop buying Rio Tinto Alcan's hydro during the lockout and let us fight for a Quebec that belongs to Quebeckers!

(Translations from original French by TML Daily; photos: TML Daily, STAA, G. Boudreau, G. Depalo, C. Desgagné, S. Deschenes, M. Lafrance,  S. Larouche, J.-P. Ouellet, E.R. Pelletier)




Reposted with permission from The Marxist-Leninist Daily / 05Apr2012


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