TORONTO, Nov 22 (Reuters) – Unionized workers at Alcoa Corp’s Canadian aluminum smelter in Becancour, Quebec have rejected the company’s contract offer and adopted a strike mandate, the United Steelworkers said on Wednesday.

The collective agreement for 1,030 unionized workers expires at 11:59 EST (0459 GMT) Wednesday, after which workers will be in a legal position to strike and Alcoa will have the right to lock them out, the union said.

Becancour produces 430,000 metric tonnes of aluminum annually, Alcoa said. Combined with the company’s Deschambault and Baie-Comeau smelters in Quebec, total annual production capacity is nearly 1 million metric tonnes of ingots, plates and billets, Alcoa said.

Alcoa, which owns 74.95 percent of Becancour with Rio Tinto Alcan holding 25.05 percent, said in a statement that management remains open to talks and hopes to reach an agreement in the coming hours.

“As the expiration of the contract approaches, we have taken steps to ensure safe and efficient operations, and our customers have the support of Alcoa’s global network of casthouses,” Alcoa spokeswoman Joyce Saltzman said in an email.

Some 90 percent of union members turned out to vote at meetings over the last two days, the union said in a statement, with 97 percent rejecting the contract offer and giving their bargaining committee a strike mandate.

The contract proposal includes a two-tier pension plan that is less favorable to new workers and demands concessions on seniority rights, said union spokesman Denis St. Pierre.

“The local union planned to be in contact with the employer today, is hoping for a resumption of negotiations,” St. Pierre said in an email.

(Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Grant McCool).

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