Unionized employees of the Aluminerie de Bécancour Inc. aluminum smelter in Quebec, who’ve been locked out for nearly 18 months, have accepted the company’s latest offer, which includes larger employer contributions to the defined benefit pension plan.

At a general membership meeting earlier this week in Trois-Rivières, Que., workers voted by a 79.8 per cent majority to ratify the employer’s latest contract offer. “I am proud of each and every one of the workers, of the struggle they have waged — with the support of more than 500 union organizations across Quebec — to preserve jobs and to defend basic principles such as seniority and their working conditions,” said Clément Masse, president of United Steelworkers Local 9700.

Read: Quebec smelter employees reject proposal for two-tiered pension plan

The offers to the three unions representing office, lab, technical, operations and maintenance workers will see the smelter’s activities resume July 26 with about 85 per cent of the unionized employees expected to return to work within six months.

With the collective agreement about to expire in November 2017, negotiations included a proposed change by the employer — co-owners Alcoa and Rio Tinto — that would keep the DB plans open for current employees and offer a defined contribution arrangement to all new workers.

In January 2018, after the majority of 1,030 unionized workers voted against the new agreement, they were locked out by their employer. At that time, the proposed changes included a move to a new pension that wasn’t a DB or a DC arrangement, with a union spokesperson noting it’s also not a target-benefit plan, despite the fact that it guarantees a basic pension to all members.

“This is an important change, moving from a defined benefit pension plan where the employer assumes the risks, to a member-funded pension plan where the risk falls entirely on the workers,” said Masse, in a press release at the time. “Our members are not convinced that the employer is investing enough in its proposed plan for the proposal to be worthwhile.”

Read: Quebec smelter proposes target-benefit style plan for all workers after two-tier pension rejected

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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