Rio Tinto CEO: Want Reasonable Talks On Alma Smelter Work Pact
04/19/2012| 09:32am US/Eastern
Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) said Thursday it is willing to enter talks with labor unions regarding a collective work agreement at its Canadian Alma aluminum smelter if the talks are "reasonable".
"We have come to solutions all the time before [regarding collective work agreement], it's just about being reasonable," Rio Tinto's Chief Executive Tom Albanese told shareholders at the company's annual general meeting here.
Rio Tinto Alcan, the aluminum arm of Rio, locked out 780 unionized workers at its 438,000-ton-a-year Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean aluminum smelter in northern Quebec Jan. 1. Both parties had started negotiations in October to establish a new collective workers' agreement to replace one that expired Dec. 31, but failed to reach an agreement.
Albanese said there were instances of vandalism which prompted the company to lockout the workers in order to ensure the safety of all workers and the plant. The plant has been operating at a third of its full capacity since the lockout.
He said the proposed collective agreement was unreasonable because it required that the smelter hire a minimum of 900 workers on the shop floor in the future, above and beyond the current number of workers at the plant.
"It is something that we haven't seen anywhere else" in negotiations before, Albanese said.
Another issue at stake was the union's request to limit or prohibit Rio from using sub-contractors for non-core activities.
A member of the United Steelworkers who attended the AGM in order to represent the locked out workers said the vandalism allegations were unfounded and the lockout was illegal. He called on Rio Tinto to return to the negotiating table.
The locked-out members of USW were supported in this action by the U.K. union Unite, the London Mining Network and three global union federations, the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF) and International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF).
-By Alex MacDonald, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 (0)20 7842 9328; email@example.com