The unionized members of the Becancour Smelter, locked out for nearly a year-and-a-half, have accepted the latest offer from their employer.

Meeting in a general assembly on Tuesday in Trois-Rivieres, the 900 workers present took a few hours to study the contract before voting more than 79.8 percent in favour.

The contract offer, presented unusually at a news conference on June 26, expects that the smelter will resume operation on July 26.

Eighty-five percent of unionized employees are expected to return to work within six months, according to Alcoa Canada President Jean-Francois Cyr.

When management presented its latest offer it said that if refused, the plant would have to shut down completely.

The plant ran at reduced capacity during the lockout while being operated by managers.

There were reports that the FTQ-affiliated union had suggested rejecting the contract, but on Tuesday it did not want to confirm or deny the information that its local had recommended its members to reject the employer's final offer.

This offer provides for a six-year work contract, with salary increases of 15.3 percent, said Alcoa Canada management.