REPORTING · 22nd October 2015
Unifor Local 2301 put on a rally on Wednesday, October 7 as a part of the World Day for Decent Work. The Rally started in Centennial Park and marched to the entrance of the Mall, outside the Rio Tinto Alcan Offices. There were not as many people as turned out last year, and a Rio Tinto Alcan employee was filming the rally from the doorway of the Rio Tinto Alcan Office.
Present for the event Deb Tveit, Assistant to President, and Gavin McGarrigle, Area Director for Unifor.
“Specifically, this is the World Day of Action to protest against Rio Tinto and the theme of this year’s rally is precarious work, which is, in a nutshell, part time work, casual work, contract work, which is a business model that Rio Tinto has begun to employ throughout the world. It is something that , we believe, there should be full time permanent positions running the smelter. It is security for our community and for the workers in the plant,” said Sean O’Driscol, Unifor 2301 president.
He stated, when they go into bargaining for the next contract, precarious work will be at the forefront as it is an important topic for their members. He expressed they want to see full time permanent employees rather than contractors.
It was pointed out in the District of Kitimat strike, which took place earlier this year, precarious work was one of the larger issues.
During his speech during the rally, O’Driscol talked about the number of grievances which the Union had been filing against Rio Tinto Alcan. “They have that right to file grievances and they’re doing that. The employer turned around last week and filed a grievance against us. Guess what the nature of that grievance was? You’re filing too many grievances.”
McGarrigle was in Kitimat to speak at last year’s rally. “In speaking with the local leadership here today, I regret to say that things haven’t gotten any better at all. It doesn’t seem that Rio Tinto’s made any serious efforts to address the concerns which were brought up,” said McGarrigle.
He expressed people were being suspended for voicing concerns about recent explosions in the plant. He stated there are minor safety concerns which come up all the time but this detail is still under investigation. People being suspended for voicing a concern is problematic.
McGarrigle explained contracting out is a large concern for the people of BC as their wages are stagnated and there is more part time work. During his speech, he wished to remind Rio Tinto was the contract with the union would be up in 2 years.
“Precarious work is an epidemic in Canada, I think it’s an epidemic in North America,” said Tveit. “Certainly in this country, we’re seeing many workers replaced by precarious workers. It’s not the precarious workers fault. They need the employment. That’s why they take the jobs but it becomes a huge health and safety issue and in an industry like this, a smelter, health and safety is always an issue so adding precarious workers puts them at danger as much as everyone else that works there.”
During her speech, she reminded everyone who was there that this was not just a global day of action against Rio Tinto, it was also the world day for decent work. “It is a day, when workers say, the only reason we are here is we were born with our ability to work,” said Tveit. “All we’re asking for is that we don’t have to die at work, make a decent standard living and that our kids and grandkids can do the same after us.”