Canadian Manufacturing

SNC Lavalin faces labour strife in nuclear CANDU division

Candu reactors supply about half of Ontario's electricity and more than 22,000 megawatts of power at sites around the world.



MONTREAL—SNC-Lavalin is threatening the future of Canada’s nuclear industry by pushing for employee concessions months after buying Candu from the federal government, says Peter White, president of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates—the union threatening to launch a strike on Monday.

The union represents nearly 900 scientists, engineers, technologists and technicians and more than 94 per cent of its members sanctioned strike action.

A union spokeswoman said proposed changes include a shift to a defined contribution pension plan, wage increases below the industry average and reduced travel compensation when overseeing reactor work.

But Candu Energy spokeswoman Katherine Ward said the goal is to negotiate an agreement without a work stoppage.

She says contingency plans are in place to ensure continued business in the event of a strike to meet customers’ needs and contractual obligations.

White said that a serious shortage of expertise in key areas could become critical to ongoing projects.

SNC-Lavalin expects its Candu Energy revenues will double over five years, excluding opportunities in Ontario to build new reactors.

The union said those revenues are at risk because of an exodus of experienced staff from the company, which was privatized last October.

It said Candu Energy filed for conciliation in January after the first meeting, starting the clock ticking towards a legal strike or lockout.

Ontario selected Candu as its preferred builder of a new reactor, but the contract was put on hold after the commercial division of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. was put up for sale. The company is also pursuing construction opportunities in Romania and elsewhere.

Ontario recently awarded a contract worth more than $600 million to a joint venture between SNC-Lavalin Nuclear Inc. and Aecon Construction Group Inc. (TSX:ARE) to refurbish its Darlington nuclear station near Toronto.

Candu reactors supply about half of Ontario’s electricity and 16 per cent of Canada’s overall electricity requirements. They also supply more than 22,000 megawatts of power at sites around the world.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has concluded that Candu’s enhanced EC6 reactor complies with its regulatory requirements.

SNC has been under pressure after three senior executives left the company for their involvement in approving $56 million of payments to unidentified agents in North Africa.

The company has 24,000 employees in 100 countries, with offices in 40 countries. It is one of the biggest engineering and construction companies in the world and a major player in the ownership of infrastructure and in operations and maintenance services.

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