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USW delays ABI vote as labor talks resume

Keywords: Tags  Aluminerie de Bécancour, ABI, Alcoa, United Steelworkers union, USW, contract negotiations, aluminum smelter, Michael Cowden

CHICAGO — The United Steelworkers union and Alcoa Inc.’s majority-owned Aluminerie de Bécancour Inc. (ABI) have resumed contract negotiations at the request of a government conciliator, both sides told AMM Feb. 13.

"The goal remains to reach an agreement that satisfies both parties while allowing our plant to remain competitive," an Alcoa spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

In the meantime, production at ABI continues and customer requirements are being met, she said.

The development came over the weekend when the government conciliator asked the union to delay a vote initially planned for this week on a final offer presented by ABI, a USW source told AMM. A vote on the contract offer has been delayed indefinitely as the two sides restart talks, the union source said.

A USW negotiating committee had asked workers at ABI to reject the company’s final contract offer just days after it was presented last week. Union workers at the Quebec smelter were previously expected to vote on the proposed contract Feb. 12 and 13 (, Feb. 7).

Alcoa and the USW have been trying to reach a new labor agreement covering some 900 workers at the 400,000-tonne-per-year ABI smelter since September (, Jan. 4).

Market sources have expressed concern that a potential strike or lockout could squeeze aluminum billet supply and lead to higher premiums.

One trader said that the news of resumed talks was welcome. He said his company was keeping an eye on developments at ABI, given that a strike or lockout could result in possibly lengthy downtime at the smelter. But he also questioned why talks have dragged on for so long.

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