Speaker: David Shier
Ontario Power Workers Union
Topic: The Future of Electricity Generation in Ontario
Location: J.L. Gray Centre
Deep River, Ont.
Date: Thursday, March 9, 2000 (7:00 pm)
David Shier photo

Summary published in North Renfrew Times,
March 15, 2000:

The Future of Electricity Generation in Ontario

by Bryan White

On Thursday, March 9 Dave Shier of the Ontario Power Workers Union spoke at a meeting of the Chalk River Branch of the Canadian Nuclear Society at Childs' Auditorium. Mr. Shier spoke on behalf of John Murphy of OPW who was unavailable due to negotiation meetings with Ontario Power Generation. Mr. Shier is: President of the Canadian Nuclear Workers Council, Vice-President for Canada of the World Nuclear Workers Council, a Board member of Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA), a Member of the Board of Governors of the Radiation Institute of Canada, and is involved in International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Siting Board. Mr. Shier worked for Ontario Hydro for 20 years and has been a staff member of the OPW Union for 15 years.

In his address Mr. Shier reported that progress is being made in the OPW / Ontario Power Generation negotiations and that he is confident a collective agreement will be reached in the near future. He expressed his appreciation for the contribution that the employees of AECL have made to the nuclear industry that has benefited the members of OPW and other labour groups. He and his members recognise that this industry is a key component of Ontario's economic prosperity. In addition, the ongoing contribution to nuclear medicine has improved the quality of life of many Canadians and others around the world.

Mr. Shier remarked that while the OPW is in favour of renewable energy resources and conservation, they frequently work to defend the nuclear industry to other labour organisations. The OPW is looking forward to organising the "windmill workers" of Canada.

While the OPW initially opposed the division and privatisation of parts of Ontario Hydro, the union and workers have come to accept that they will benefit from the new opportunities. With the deregulation in the US, the majority of nuclear power plants are performing well and are profitable. Mr. Shier observed that while environmental objectives would lead to reduced fossil plant operation, they will have a continuing role in load following while the nuclear plants provide base load generation. Mr. Shier believes that competition is good for both alternative energy supplies and nuclear utilities. The OPW looks forward to the return to service of the Pickering A generating units and ultimately the "A units" at the Bruce NGS. He observed that demonstrating improved performance is key to the future success of both OPG and AECL. OPW is participating in the environmental assessment process. He encouraged those interested to visit the website, "www. pwu.ca".

Mr. Shier stated that the nuclear recovery program at OPG is making good progress toward its targets. In response to questions, he observed that while the labour - management relations were difficult following the management changes at Ontario Hydro and the shutdown of eight nuclear units, significant progress has been made. When the American management team was introduced there was patriotic resistance from the workers. Mr. Shier believes that both the new management and the workers have learned from each other through this process. Moreover, a number of the OPW workers have been recruited into management positions. While the changes haven't come easily, it is recognised that the workers can contribute to the changes required to ensure success. "Gain sharing" has provided incentive to worker buy-in for the initiatives being taken.

There is progress on the maintenance back log at the generating stations, and worker morale is improving. Mr. Shier observed that OPW was not supportive of declaring OPG staff as essential workers. He feels that both the OPW and the Society of Engineering Professionals at OPG are finding the mediation / arbitration mechanism workable, and are succeeding in resolving disputes through dialog.

In response to a question on the OPW relationship with the New Democratic Party, Mr. Shier stated that the OPW frequently interacts with other labour organisations. He observed that the Ontario NDP frequently seems to forget their previous stand on nuclear power. Educating labour, political groups and the public with factual information is a ongoing challenge for the OPW and other groups in this industry. The OPW has been working for some time to arrange a tour of Zircatec in Port Hope and the Darlington and Pickering stations for the NDP caucus. They have found that taking interested groups on tours of nuclear facilities has been successful in relieving their concerns.

Through their dialog with other labour groups, the OPW has found that increasingly, they have been successful in having concerned groups or individuals contact the Power Workers Union, the CNWC for information rather than prompting a media response.

Following the meeting, Mr. Shier met employees of the Deep River Hydro Electric Commission. The OPW is looking forward to their joining the union when the purchase of Deep River Hydro by Ontario Hydro Services is concluded.