Friday, 25 January 2013

Secrets Are Not Good in Public Administration: Rio Tinto Alcan Admits to Making Big Bucks Sellling Electricity During Lock-out

The aluminum multinational Rio Tinto Alcan made $74 million selling electricity to Hydro Québec during a recent lockout of its workers, Le Devoir reports. Under a very secret contract reached in 2006, the company usually buys electricity from the utility to augment what it produces in its own dams: the year before the lock-out, it bought about 200 megawatts.

But the contract also says, apparently, that Hydro Québec is obliged to buy the aluminum complex's excess.  That amounted to 387 megawatts in 2012, the result was another reason for the company to drag its feet when dealing with its locked-out workers.

The staggering sale came out this week with Rio Tinto Alcan's vice president Etienne Jacques testified before Quebec's Commission des relations de travail, which is looking into the conflict.  Up until then, the company had refused to say just how much they were making while not making aluminum.

Shady dealing  in the construction industry has been in the spotlight in Quebec since last fall, but it's clear that preferential treatment, such as the secret contract, goes much deeper. 

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