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Engineers at Bruce Power threaten strike action

Engineers, safety analysts and other professionals at Bruce Power have given their union a strong strike mandate if an agreement can’t be reached during conciliation talks that begin next week.

The Society of United Professionals has voted 97 per cent in favour of a strike mandate

Bruce Power operates eight nuclear reactors on the shores of Lake Huron near Kincardine. It provides 30 per cent of Ontario's power and employs over 4,000 full-time employees. (J.P. Moczulski/Canadian Press)

Engineers, safety analysts and other professionals at Bruce Power have given their union a strong strike mandate if an agreement can't be reached during conciliation talks that begin next week.

Members of the Society of United Professionals have voted 97 per cent in favour of strike action as a last resort. The voting was conducted earlier this week.

"I would characterize that 97 per cent as a high [level] of support for the society's bargaining agenda … and also a collective opposition to Bruce Power's agenda," said Mike Gade, the vice-president of the Bruce Power local of the union.

But it doesn't mean a strike is imminent.

"There's a lot of time during conciliation ... to resolve the issues, and the society is certainly hopeful we can do that without the need for any strike action, because our focus is on a fair collective agreement," said Gade.

The conciliation process is scheduled for June 24 to 26. Both parties will attempt to resolve their differences with the assistance a conciliation officer appointed by the Minster of Labour.

At the end of the process, if the parties do no reach an agreement, the conciliation officer issues a no-board report. It would activate a 17-day cooling off period at the end of which the parties would be in a legal strike or lock-out position.

Key issues

Gade says the key issues include the degree to which outside contractors should be allowed to do sensitive safety work, and developing better career growth opportunities for professionals.

"They're seeking abilities to grow and develop during their careers here … they want to do more challenging, more technical work as they become more experienced during their careers."

Gade said there has never been a strike by his members at Bruce Power, but prior to 2015 any unresolved disputes were referred to an arbitrator. Bruce Power withdrew from binding arbitration in 2015, which has created the current potential for a strike/lock-out situation, he said.

Contingency plans

An official with Bruce Power said it's committed to keeping the dialogue open. "We're certainly embracing the step to get together with a conciliator next week and we're confident we can find an agreement that everyone's happy with," said John Peevers, director of corporate communications.

When asked whether Bruce Power has developed contingency plans in the event of a strike, Peevers replied: "We're a nuclear company, we have contingency plans for just about every scenario."

However, he added that the company is focused on achieving a collective agreement with the union.

About the Author

Gary Ennett

Morning News Editor

Gary Ennett is a veteran editor and reporter. He’s been with CBC since the opening of the London bureau in 1998. His email address is gary.ennett@cbc.ca

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