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

Head-on crash kills three

David Basque never got to see his second child.

Basque, 45, was one of three people killed in a three-vehicle crash in Inkerman Ferry on the Acadian Peninsula late Friday night. He left behind a young daughter and his pregnant wife, Renée.

Police are expected to release the names of the other two crash victims today.

Jean-Albert Chiasson remembers Basque as a hardworking, much-beloved member of the Lamèque community.

He owned blueberry fields and a machine shop, Chiasson said, and would clear people’s snow in the winter with his tractor.

Chiasson owns Garage Central Lamèque, which is where the crumpled vehicles now sit.

“The trucks are gone, the car is gone, everything is gone,” he said. “That’s the worst accident I’ve ever seen.”

In the days since the accident, hundreds of people from all over the surrounding area have gathered at Chiasson’s garage to see the wreckage.

Standing solemnly in the rain, members of the community have tried to piece together what happened.

The investigation is ongoing, said Const. Jean-Francois Dulac. Official details should be available in about a week.

But from what Chiasson’s gathered, Basque was driving along Route 113 in his 4×4 Dodge Ram that night, following a dark car towing a trailer. The trailer held a box of bees and a forklift.

At around 10:30 p.m., they came to a curve and became involved in an accident with an oncoming vehicle, also a Dodge Ram, carrying a man from British Columbia who was working at a wind farm in Lamèque.

Basque and the driver of the other Dodge Ram died, as did a man in the vehicle towing a trailer. A women in that vehicle was taken to hospital with injuries.

When Dulac got there, he said the air was filled with buzzing bees, with a thousand more dead on the road.

Dulac said about 30 people, including firemen, police, paramedics, a gas station attendant and other community members, gathered on the road to help and watch.

In Lamèque, which has a population of about 1,500, people are really feeling the pain of losing a member of their community, said Dulac. Everyone knew Basque, he said.

“It’s very tough for the community.”

Previously published June 20, 2011; Telegraph-Journal