Nuclear scientist, engineers dispute SNC Lavalin’s compensation offer in three provinces.
Toronto — About 850 nuclear scientists, engineers and technologists at Candu Energy Inc. went on strike Monday morning after negotiators failed to reach a contract before the strike deadline.
Candu is owned by Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin. Its employees design, build and service nuclear reactors that supply nearly half of Ontario’s electricity and 16 per cent of Canada’s overall electricity requirements. The company has operations in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. Reactors designed by Candu supply more than 22,000 megawatts of power at sites around the world.
Candu says it does not operate any nuclear power plants so the strike action should have no impact on the day-to-day operations at the plants. The Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, which represents the workers, said power plants will not shut down but there will a noticeable effect on operations.
“There’s not enough people to replace us, so work will definitely be impacted,” spokeswoman Michelle Duncan said.
The union has said the main sticking points in the labour dispute involved wages and seniority. SPEA president Peter White said a key issue is what he calls the company’s desire to move away from nuclear industry standards and compensate its employees differently from other workers in the field. He said a full strike threatens the future of Canada’s nuclear industry as it will almost certainly guarantee the loss of technological talent.
Senior engineers with years of expertise are choosing to leave the company, which could cause the design and service capabilities at Candu to decline, he said. Duncan said the union would like to return to the bargaining table, but will only do so if SNC-Lavalin presents “a fair and competitive deal.”
“We need to be competitive if we’re going to maintain the expertise,” she said. “Our members can work anywhere in the world, they are employable and they are making their decisions by walking with their feet.”
The federal government agreed last year to sell the Candu reactor division of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to SNC-Lavalin for $15 million plus future royalties. Under the deal, SNC agreed to protect about 1,200 AECL jobs.
Ontario recently awarded a contract worth more than $600 million to a joint venture between SNC-Lavalin Nuclear Inc. and Aecon Construction Group Inc. to refurbish its Darlington nuclear station near Toronto.
© 2012 The Canadian Press