MONTREAL — Aluminum giant Rio Tinto Alcan is studying its options, including whether to seek the reopening of collective agreements, at it moves to reduce costs over the next 12 to 18 months to offset the challenges of a tough global market for the metal.The Montreal-based aluminum division has provided cost reduction targets to each of its facilities around the world, but won’t release them publicly.Rio Tinto Alcan met Thursday with Canadian Auto Workers union representatives to discuss employee concerns about the weak global aluminum market, cost-reduction efforts and the planned closure this year of its cathode facility in Arvida. About 50 employees affected by the closure will be relocated to other facilities.The meeting followed a general meeting of union employees about 10 days ago.[np-related]Company spokeswoman Claudine Gagnon says Rio’s facilities in Quebec and elsewhere around the world have to reduce costs. The Arvida facility also faces an additional challenge because it will no longer meet Quebec’s environmental standards as of 2015.She said the company hasn’t made any decisions about seeking the reopening of some collective agreements, but it is one of the options being considered. Other options include achieving savings by changing work rules.CAW officials couldn’t be immediately reached for comment, but Marc Maltais of the United Steelworkers in Alma, Que., said the union has yet to meet with Rio about its demands.While the union recognizes the difficulties facing the global aluminum industry, he said cheap energy makes Quebec one of the lowest cost operations in the world.
Saddened by the death of Ariel Sharon, former Prime Minister of Israel, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today praised the late statesman’s political courage and determination, and urged the country to build on Mr. Sharon’s legacy of pragmatism to press ahead with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. In a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York, Mr. Ban offered his condolences to the late leader’s bereaved family and to the Government and people of Israel. Mr. Sharon, 85, became incapacitated by a severe stroke in 2006. He passed away earlier today at a hospital near Tel Aviv. “Throughout a life dedicated to the State of Israel, Ariel Sharon was a hero to his people, first as a soldier and then a statesman,” said the Secretary-General. “Prime Minister Sharon will be remembered for his political courage and determination to carry through with the painful and historic decision to withdraw Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip,” the UN chief said, adding that Mr. Sharon’s successor faces the difficult challenge of realizing the aspirations of peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people. The Secretary-General called on Israel to build on the late Prime Minister’s legacy of pragmatism to work towards the long overdue achievement of an independent and viable Palestinian state, next to a secure Israel. “At this time of national mourning, the Secretary-General renews the commitment of the United Nations to work alongside the Government and the people of Israel for peace and security,” said the statement.