March 20, 2012 / 4:32 PM / in 6 years

Talks under way to end lockout at Rio Quebec smelter

March 20 (Reuters) - Talks are under way to end a three-month lockout of workers at Rio Tinto Alcan’s giant Alma aluminum smelter in northern Quebec as the two sides have been summoned to the negotiating table.

“The government-appointed mediator called both sides back to the table for a meeting yesterday afternoon,” Rio Tinto Alcan spokesman Bryan Tucker said in an email to Reuters on Tuesday.

“The discussions between the parties will continue today.”

Rio Tinto Alcan locked unionized workers out at the 438,000-tonnes-per-year smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean on Jan. 1, after talks on a new contract failed. The old contract expired on Dec. 31 and the two sides had been talking since October.

Rio has been operating the plant with non-unionized workers at about one-third of capacity since early January.

This is the first time Rio and the workers have come together since talks broke off a day before the last contract ended.

“We are not commenting on the nature of the discussions at this time as our priority is to allow the process with the mediator (to) continue its course,” Tucker said.

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