Major layoffs at AECL

Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. is bracing for a mass layoff that would cut 900 employees, according to a memo obtained by the Telegraph-Journal.

This would eliminate about 40 per cent of the company’s workforce, says a union official.

Michael Ivanco is the vice-president of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates, which represents many employees for AECL. A couple hundred of those employees are New Brunswickers, he said.

However, he didn’t yet know how many of the proposed layoffs would affect New Brunswick employees.

“That’s all to be determined … There are a lot of negotiations that will have to happen,” he said.

He said the union will be sitting down with management to discuss ways to decrease the impact. One method, Ivanco said, is to offer older employees termination packages.

Ivanco visited New Brunswick a couple weeks ago and said the majority of AECL’s workforce in the province is made up of young people, mostly in their 20s and early 30s.

But he said even if a lot of younger people keep their jobs, problems remain. The company would lose a lot of experience and years in the field.

“It’s a very narrow line to walk,” he said.

For the younger employees who will be set adrift, post-AECL options might be few and far between, he said.

A lot of projects are just wrapping up, Ivanco said. The Bruce Power Restart project and a project in South Korea are coming to an end, and the Point Lepreau project will be done in about a year, he said.

After that, there are a few projects on the horizon, but they won’t be hiring for a few years.

“There’s a lot of work five years down the road, but when you look one year down, maybe not so much.”

The layoffs are set to happen between July and September. Ivanco said within a month there will be a little more clarity for the non-unionized staff and the managers. Uncertainty will last longer for the unionized staff, which will be negotiating more with the new owners.

“It’s been quite an embarrassment to be so over budgeted and so behind schedule,” Ivanco said.

The memo revealed about 310 scientists and engineers, 155 technologists, 240 non-unionized support staff, 45 draftspersons and 150 people in management will be let go. The layoff announcement comes in the wake of the federal government’s recent $15 million deal with SNC-Lavalin, a Canadian engineering firm.

Previously published July 1, 2011; Telegraph-Journal, Daily Gleaner