by The Canadian Press Posted Jul 5, 2012 10:50 pm MDT Rio Tinto Alcan workers in Alma, Que., vote to end labour dispute ALMA, Que. – Locked out workers at a Rio Tinto Alcan plant in Alma, Que., voted Thursday night to end a labour dispute which had been running since the start of the year.Workers in three groups voted in favour of the tentative deal with the aluminium company by margins of 82 per cent to 92 per cent.The 780 Rio Tinto Alcan workers were locked out on Dec. 30.One of the key issues in the dispute was outsourcing. The international company wanted to replace retiring workers with sub-contractors that would be paid lower wages.The union said Thursday night that the new contract limited outsourcing, bolstering the interests of the Quebec employees.During the dispute, the union had also denounced the company’s continued operation of its dams and the selling of its electricity production to Hydro-Quebec.“We faced the third-largest mining company in the world and we won,” said Leo Gerad, the international president of the United Steelworkers.“The message to multinational corporations is clear: workers are more determined than ever to defend their rights.”The new contract runs until Dec. 21, 2015. Details of the deal will be announced on Friday, the union said.“I thank our members and their families have never abandoned despite six months of lockout, said Mark Maltais, president of Local 9490.“We can go back to work with heads up.”The company welcomed the positive vote Thursday night.“This is excellent news for our employees, their families, the community, our customers and our shareholders,” said Etienne Jacques, CEO for the North American division of Rio Tinto Alcan Primary Metal.“The agreement will help protect the competitiveness of the Alma plant in the future.”The company said management will being the back to work process for the employees over the next few days, followed by the restart of the plant smelter’s production cells.The new deal was reached Sunday with the intervention of a Ministry of Labour conciliator.The Alma plant is in Quebec’s Saguenay region, about 225 kilometres north of Quebec City. It is one of Rio Tinto Alcan’s key aluminum smelters, producing about 438,000 tonnes of aluminum a year.The lockout caused a one-third reduction in output at the smelter.Alma’s mayor had said the lockout hit the local economy hard.Marc Asselin had said a positive outcome would bring welcome relief to the community, which has been watching its pennies over the last few months.“In the last six months, people have been careful with their expenses, careful with their investments because they didn’t know when the conflict would end.”Kathleen Voyer, director general of the Lac-St-Jean-Est chamber of commerce and industry, said that prudence was clearly evident.“We saw a slowdown on the construction side, also in renovations and at the level of the car dealers,” she said. “It was the same thing in the beauty treatment sector, for example. These were the sectors that were affected more than the others.”Asselin said economic restraint was also exercised by the town, which was careful about how it spent its funds. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email
The spark for the displacement is the reported escalation in violence in the Syrian town of Qarah and surrounding villages, Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said at a news conference in Geneva. Refugees told the agency that they spent days living in underground shelters before deciding to flee. “A family of ten told us they had crammed into a single car on Saturday evening to flee as the situation had become ‘unbearable,’” said Mr. Edwards.Most of the newly arrived refugees are now in the north-eastern Lebanese town of Arsal, which is home to a population of some 60,000 people, including – already prior to the latest influx – 20,000 registered refugees.“UNHCR and its partners have contingency plans in place for these sudden movements – and indeed for larger numbers should more cross,” Mr. Edwards said. “There are concerns that ongoing violence in the vicinity of Qarah and central Qalamoun towns could force more to flee Syria into the already stretched east-Bekaa area.”Over 1,000 of the newly arrived Syrian families in Arsal have registered with the local municipality in the past three days and been provided with emergency assistance, including food parcels, blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets and hygiene kits.The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has so far assisted around 3,555 people with food parcels for one month, spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva, adding that distribution will continue today. She said that once the new arrivals are registered, they would receive WFP e-cards for the next month. WFP is also monitoring the food security situation in Arsal and the ability of the shops to respond to the needs of the new influx.In preparation for a potential larger influx, the agency is ramping up its contingency stock and had already mobilised 3,400 food parcels in warehouses in the Bekaa, enough for around 17,000 people for one month and ready for dispatch if needed. In total, WFP has a contingency stock of food parcels for around 120,000 people in the country.Meanwhile, sheltering the large numbers of new arrivals remains a challenge, according to UNHCR. Newly arrived refugees have been directed to four temporary collective shelters in public halls and mosques. Up to 80 families have found shelter in informal settlements while others have set up makeshift dwellings in unfinished buildings or are staying with local families. “None of these provide a long-term option,” noted Mr. Edwards.“UNHCR with its partners is ready to provide further shelter options if the Government approves land for use. In the meantime, all is being done to ensure that the temporary locations are protected against the elements and provide some warmth to the refugees.”The number of people fleeing their homes is growing as the conflict in Syria continues unabated. An estimated 4.25 million Syrians are now displaced within their own country, while a further 2 million have sought refuge in neighbouring countries since fighting began in March 2011.