News Local

79 laid off at Cameco


PORT HOPE - Cameco laid off 79 non-unionized employees Wednesday. Citing a shortage of work resulting from a current strike at Cameco Fuel Manufacturing Ltd. operations in Cobourg and Port Hope, it is uncertain when or if the layoff will end "due to the labour disruption", Cameco spokesperson Doug Prendergast said Wednesday afternoon.

The laid-off employees are non-unionized salaried and contract employees "from a number of different departments and responsibilities" employed at both the Cobourg and Port Hope fuel manufacturing facilities, Prendergast said.

The 137 members of the Local 14193 of the United Steelworkers union have been on legal strike since 12:02 a. m. Saturday, Sept. 5. The union members at the Cameco fuel manufacturing plant at Cobourg's Northam Industrial Park and on Peter Street in Port Hope produce nuclear fuel bundles for CANDU reactors.

"The impact is on the fuel manufacturing operations," Prendergast said of the layoff. "There is not an impact on the (fuel) conversion facility (in Port Hope)."

The 79 layoffs were determined "by work requirement," Prendergast said. "There are some areas where there is still work to be done and other areas where there isn't a need for work to be done at this point."

Wednesday afternoon, Local 14193 president Grant McBride said he could not comment on the 79 layoffs until he has learned the details.

"I would hope Cameco will look after them," he said.

The 79 laid-off workers qualify for Employment Insurance benefits "and Cameco will be offering a supplementary benefit plan that tops up the EI payment so laid-off employees receive 75% of their gross pay. That will run for a maximum of six months," Prendergast said.

Prior to the strike, Cameco's fuel manufacturing division employed approximately 360 people, with 163 in Cobourg and just under 200 at the Port Hope operations. With an estimated 137 employees now on strike and 79 on layoff, around 130 Cameco employees continue to work at the two facilities. Another 400 Cameco conversion plant 400 employees in Port Hope are unaffected.

At the fuel operations, working Cameco employees continue to be transported across picket lines to work by bus which is raising issues of security and safety protocol, according to Local 14193.

Asked if there has been any movement on talks with the union, Prendergast said, "Cameco remains willing to meet with the union bargaining committee but no meetings are scheduled at this time."

"It looks like we're here for a long time -- Christmas or longer," McBride said from the picket line in Cobourg Wednesday afternoon. "Right now we're waiting for a truck delivering parts at 5 p. m. so they can continue building on the non-union side. We will hold them up. That's our goal: to shut them down.

"We're interested in getting this thing settled and getting back to work," McBride said, but there has been no talk with Cameco management since the last offer on the Labour Day weekend. That offer was "unacceptable, so we're going to take them on," McBride said.

"It's not about wages," McBride said of the strike. "The main issue is benefits" being reduced for retirees and current workers he said.

After 30 days on strike, Local 14193 workers will receive full funding of dental, drug and life insurance benefits plus minimum strike pay of $200 up to $400 a week funded by the United Steelworkers District 6, McBride said.