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Candu Energy employees hit the picket lines Monday

About 800 nuclear scientists, engineers and technologists at Candu Energy Inc. went on strike Monday morning after negotiators failed to reach a contract before a strike deadline.

Candu is owned by Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, and its reactors supply nearly half of Ontario’s electricity and 16 per cent of Canada’s overall electricity requirements.

With operations in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, Candu also supplies more than 22,000 megawatts of power at sites around the world. The company hasn’t said yet how the job action might affect operations.

The workers are members of the Society of Professional Engineers and Associates. The union has said the main sticking points in the labour dispute involved wages and seniority.

SPEA president Peter White says a key issue is what he calls the company’s desire to move away from nuclear industry standards and compensate its employees differently from other workers in the field.

He says a full strike threatens the future of Canada’s nuclear industry as it will almost certainly guarantee the loss of technological talent. He says senior engineers with years of expertise are choosing to leave the company, which could cause the design and service capabilities at Candu to decline.