Union’s have gone global in response to global financial capital’s push to drive wage costs to the bottom. Canadian United Steel Workers (USW) will meet local workers in Invercargill on Thursday at the Working Men’s Club at 8pm and picket outside Rio Tinto office in Wellington on Friday at 12:30pm. All welcome.
Canadian United Steel Workers (USW)officials Guy Farrell and Mark Matais are to visit New Zealand in March 2012 to highlight the plight of 780 locked out aluminium smelter workers in Quebec. The visits of the two USW delegates are part of a campaign to gather global support. The USW delegation will visit Invercargill on Thursday 8 March and meet with local workers. The nearby Tiwai Point Smelter has a majority shareholding by the same company Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) that has locked out the Canadian workers. The following day Friday 9 March they will lead a peaceful assembly at Rio Tinto’s New Zealand Office at the ASB Building in Wellington.
Their visit is being jointly sponsored by the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) and the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) who are
affiliated to the USW through the Mining and Maritime Initiative. EPMU Senior National Industrial Officer Paul Tolich says the goal is to get RTA management to lift the lockout and return to negotiations around sub-contracting issues with the USW workers. USW delegate Mark Matais is the President of the USW Local 9495, District 5 Branch based at RTA’s Aluminium Smelter in Alma, Quebec. He and fellow workers have been locked out since 1January 2012 after workers rejected a company contract, in a harsh struggle that has attracted global attention.
RTA management is trying to contract out jobs at the Alma smelter, meaning that existing employees could end up working alongside workers who would be contracted in at half the pay rate of unionised employees. The USW is not totally opposed to sub-contractingbut wants stricter conditions placed around its use by RTA. The Canadian dispute has parallels with the current Ports of Auckland action involving Maritime Union of New Zealand members. MUNZ National Secretary Joe Fleetwood says the Canadian workers are facing the same tactics Ports of Aucklandmanagement are using against union members. “Employers are attempting to pressure their workforces into accepting contracting out around the world, and that’s why we have to all stand together for secure jobs.”