Best Theratronics use of unqualified scab labour raises nuclear safety concerns

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A women and a man standing in front of a tent holding place cards that read on strike

KANATA, ONT.—Unifor and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) sent a joint letter to the Canadian Safety Nuclear Commission (CNSC) today, expressing their concerns about Best Theratronics using unqualified managers and non-union workers as scab labour to handle safety-sensitive equipment at its Kanata, Ont. facility, including those containing radioactive material.

“It’s clear that Best Theratronics is willing to cut corners by using unqualified scabs and creating a dangerous work environment,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne. 

“This is why we need anti-scab legislation to be put in place in every jurisdiction in Canada – to stop employers from engaging in these kinds of unsafe tactics.”

More than 50 members of Unifor Local 1541 and PSAC-UNE Local 70369 are on strike at Best Theratronics. Unifor members went on strike May 1, 2024, after the company proposed a two-year contract with zero wage increases, while PSAC members followed shortly after on May 10 with no monetary offer from the employer.

“The idea that scab labour could be receiving, offloading and handling radioactive material is alarming,” said Alex Silas, National Executive Vice-President of PSAC. “The use of replacement workers when it comes to hazardous materials sounds like a lesson I thought we learned in the 20th century.”

Best Theratronics develops and manufactures external beam therapy units, self-contained blood irradiators, and cyclotrons for hospitals, medical and research facilities.

The company’s owner Krishnan Suthanthiran recently emailed workers, saying the company will use contractors to complete work.

It is especially concerning that the company is using mangers and non-union personnel at the facility during the strike as scab labour who may be untrained and uncertified to do the work safely.

On May 22, a truck was observed delivering live material to the facility at approximately 8:30 p.m. There was one car in the parking lot at the time, raising questions about how the receiving and offloading of live material is being done.

Unifor recommends a new inspection be scheduled to ensure Best Theratronics – whose facility near Ottawa operates under a Class 1B license for the use of Cobalt 60, Cesium 137, and cyclotrons – is fulfilling its obligations under the CNSC.

“Seeing the lengths this company will go to skirt around a fair deal is mind-boggling,” said Unifor Local 1541 President Steve LaBelle. “We’re talking about unqualified scabs handling hazardous materials like it’s no big deal. We need to keep jobs in Canada being done by workers who are properly qualified and trained.”

As well, the facility is licensed under Class II Nuclear Facilities, Prescribed Equipment License and Nuclear Substances and Radiation Devices for conducting work on medical equipment sold in Canada.

Unifor members work in the Skilled Trades as certified machinists, welders, sheet metal workers, machining process specialists, calibrators, electronic technicians, electrical and mechanical inspectors at the facility while PSAC members work as design specialists, production planners and production controllers, expert technicians and many other key positions which are crucial to the drafting, manufacturing and delivery of Atomic Energy-based machines produced by Best Theratronics Limited

“We like the work we do, and that’s why we’re concerned that the owner may be putting the company and the non-unionized workers inside at risk,” said PSAC Local 70369 President Jeff Gulis. “During the pandemic last time we accepted concessions because we wanted the company to get through difficult times, but now it’s time for us to catch up to similar jobs in our sector, where people down the street are making 24-26% more than we are. We just want a fair deal and to get back to work.”

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 320,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada is one of Canada's largest unions, representing nearly 245,000 workers in every province and territory in Canada. UNE is a component union of PSAC representing more than 27,000 members working in 73 different workplaces in the public, private and non-profit sectors.

For more information, please contact Unifor National Communications Representative Jenny Yuen at: @email or (416) 938-6157.

For more information, please contact PSAC National Capital Region Political Communications Officer Chelsea Flook at @email or (873) 455-5719

Photos of Unifor and PSAC on the picket line. 

Media Contact

Jenny Yuen

National Communications Representative