Glencore Violated Labour Law in Dismissing Workers at Its Raglan Mine, Quebec Tribunal Rules

Resource giant Glencore violated labour laws when it dismissed unionized security officers at its Raglan Mine in March 2021, the Quebec government’s Administrative Labour Tribunal (Tribunal administratif du Travail) has ruled.

The tribunal’s ruling, released June 15, stems from a complaint filed by the United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos, the union representing the security officers. The union argued before the tribunal that Glencore violated labour laws when it dismissed the workers after they rejected the company’s contract offer during negotiations for a collective agreement.

The ruling concludes that Glencore “obstructed the activities of the union and its members” and “failed in its obligation to bargain diligently and in good faith.”

While the ruling by administrative judge Johanne Despatis does not include an order that Glencore reinstate the dismissed employees, it opens the door to remedies for all those who were affected by the company’s unfair labour practices.

The ruling includes several harsh and scathing criticisms of Glencore’s behaviour. It portrays an employer with constant anti-union preoccupations, “thinly veiled hostility,” “driven by anti-union motives designed to crush the union’s goals” and by a desire to send “a clear message from the company to the other units (of unionized workers) that will soon be in negotiations.”

Those other workers include 630 unionized employees at Raglan Mine, members of Steelworkers Local 9449, who have been on strike since May 27. The strikers are seeking better working conditions and greater respect from Glencore, including a reduction of the company’s extensive use of subcontractors.

“It is appalling that Glencore was preparing for the current negotiations by resorting to unfair and bad faith labour practices, undermining our activities and throwing the families of these security officers out on the street,” said Harold Arseneault, a Steelworkers’ union representative.

“Glencore's methods are overwhelmingly in bad faith and our members are determined to get the respect they’re seeking,” Arseneault said.

“The recognition of these illegal practices in the tribunal’s decision is extremely important to us,” said Nicolas Marchand, president of the Steelworkers’ bargaining unit that represents the dismissed security officers.

“This ruling exposes what we have experienced over the last eight years, which is not widely known. It demonstrates the legitimacy of our legal case and gives a voice and hope to union members in small bargaining units. It also gives us strength to move forward with the next steps,” Marchand said.

Steelworkers’ union leaders, legal advisors and local union representatives will be meeting over the next few days to assess the options that are open to the union as a result of the labour tribunal’s ruling and to decide on future actions.

The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos, affiliated with the Quebec Federation of Labour, is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers in all economic sectors.