After a two-week strike marked by what their union called “US-style anti-union posturing”, SNC-Lavalin technical staff in Ontario, Canada have voted overwhelmingly in favour of new collective agreements with Candu Energy, the SNC-Lavalin company that builds and maintains nuclear reactors.
The Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA), which represents Candu engineers, scientists, technical and administrative staff, accused the company of using “draconian” tactics, including ordering hundreds of staff who had been working from home to return to the office with one business day’s notice on 2 June, five days after the strike began on 29 May.
The union called this “a blatant attempt to force SPEA into accepting an unfavourable agreement”.
“This agreement is a significant victory made possible by scientists, engineers, technicians and technologists standing together, and moves beyond the employer’s pre-strike ‘Best and Final Offer’ in several meaningful ways,” said SPEA president Mark Chudak on 13 June.
SPEA said the agreement “establishes wage increases with inflation protection, enables a safe, flexible return-to-work policy, and provides numerous benefit enhancements”, adding that it “includes an end to the employer’s controversial June 2nd ‘mandatory, full-time return to the office’ order”.
Fuel designer and SPEA executive committee member Akashkeep Gill said: “The SNC-Lavalin team, led by [Candu Energy president Bill] Fox, used aggressive anti-union tactics that are antithetical to efforts to create a culture of integrity and transparency that is sorely needed at SNC-Lavalin to recover from its past scandals. US-style anti-union posturing has no place in Ontario’s nuclear industry, which is proudly union.”
“We are pleased to have a long-term agreement for our SPEA-represented employees that provides us with long-term stability while addressing the needs of our clients, our employees and the company,” said Bill Fox in a statement. “This will allow all of us to return our focus to the important work of extending the life of Ontario’s Candu reactors to provide affordable clean energy for another 30 years.”
Last month, SNC-Lavalin and SPEA agreed to enter into arbitration to arrive at the first collective agreement for operations and administrative (OA) staff, whose bargaining unit represents document controllers, bid leads, project controls specialists, procurement leads and other job categories. The OA bargaining unit has been without a collective agreement since it was certified in 2018.
“An independent arbitrator will ensure that our employees represented by the OA bargaining unit have a contract that properly reflects the important contributions they make to our organization,” said Fox, adding: “We are pleased to work collaboratively with the arbitrator for a fair and balanced deal for both our unionised employees and the company. This will also free us up to concentrate on negotiating new collective agreements with our three other bargaining units”.