* Reactor design staff target Candu customers
* Operators say no impact on safe operations
* Reactor staff work past the end of their shifts
By Allison Martell
Aug 15 (Reuters) - Striking nuclear engineers from SNC-Lavalin Group Inc’s Candu Energy subsidiary escalated their dispute with the company on Wednesday, setting up picket lines at Ontario reactors for the first time and delaying shift changes at the plants.
The reactors’ operators, Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation, both said the pickets do not threaten safe operations at their facilities.
“They delayed staff coming in but there was no impact on operations,” said Ontario Power Generation (OPG) spokesman Ted Gruetzner.
About 850 members of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA) have been on strike since July 9. The walkout followed a five-week partial strike by 144 members. They had been working without a contract since January 1, 2011.
Gruetzner said there were picket lines at OPG reactors in Pickering and its Darlington facility in Clarington, Ontario. Reactor workers stayed late to maintain staffing levels, but most workers had crossed the line by midday. He said some affected workers are administrative staff.
Bruce Power said in a statement that contingency plans were in place at its facility, located north of London, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron.
The striking workers are not employed by Bruce Power or OPG. Rather, they work for the recently privatized business that designs and assists with major repairs of Candu reactors, including those operated by the electricity providers.
“We decided to do this to try to get our customers to send a message to our employer that it’s time to do something about this,” said Michael Ivanco, a senior scientist and vice president of the union.
SPEA workers became employees of SNC-Lavalin in October 2011 when the federal government sold off the commercial business of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd to a unit of SNC for just C$15 million plus royalties.
Ivanco said talks with management have been intermittent.
Candu could not immediately be reached for comment.