A Strike at Chalk River – Really?

I can’t believe what I’m reading about a strike by CRL’s scientists and engineers. It seems that they can go on strike July 17 but I find it hard to credit that they would actually be dumb enough to do it.

I’m sure they must have thought about the consequences but it’s hard to see what they hope to gain. The federal government is determined to cut Public Service costs and has a generally negative attitude toward AECL and all things nuclear. It’s no exaggeration to say the government has little sympathy for unions in general as shown by their rapid back-to-work actions in many recent strikes. To complete this grim picture I also have the impression that the Canadian public is becoming increasingly disillusioned with trade unions especially those in the public sector.

According to the union the contract offer from management might lead to salary decreases in a few years. Simply based on my interpretation of the government’s current policies I’m afraid CRL is in for significant job cuts in the near future. Justifying the size and scope of CRL’s current programs is already difficult in Ottawa. Taking future salary hits might go some way to prevent R&D programs closing down with consequent job losses.  In the medium term CRL employees need to keep their heads down and hope for a change of government.

What leverage would the strikers have? As I understand it isotope production (while it lasts) is classified as an essential service that wouldn’t be affected.  Some nuclear waste services could be a problem but management personnel could direct the trucks to some interim storage area. On the other hand I don’t see Ottawa bureaucrats wringing their hands over a slowdown in the pace of nuclear R&D. SNC’s operations would not suffer much nor would OPG sympathize since both have their own layoffs underway. Unfortunately, nobody with any clout is going to care much about how long a strike lasts. The picket lines would be there for a long time.

A strike would be a disastrous misread of today’s realities and the next news I want to read is that the threat of a strike is over.

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