Membership Message: Latest Bully Tactics - SPEA President Suspended
January 20, 2023
Suspension of SPEA President
As many of you know, earlier this week, the employer suspended (with pay) SPEA President, Mark Chudak. They call it “Paid Administrative Leave”. This is the latest chapter in a series of anti-union, unethical and unlawful tactics employed by the current leadership of Candu.
Bill’s Blog on the topic is titled: “Clearing the Air”. Clarity is not what comes to mind…..
“Clearing the Air” – How did we get here?
You will remember that in December, 2021, at the onset of bargaining, the employer banned emails to and from SPEA and unilaterally declared that SPEA has no right to any internal documents (documents which are crucial to win grievances around promotions, performance appraisals, jurisdiction, etc.). SPEA has always conducted business via email and utilized internal documents with the employer’s full knowledge.
The employer hoped that their ban would place the union in disarray and that our members would be intimidated. This did not happen. SPEA members stayed strong and united, including through our selective strike action.
The employer’s longer term goal is to hamstring SPEA by starving us of the information we need to represent our members and police our jurisdiction. This includes intimidating employees so they will be afraid to reach out to SPEA for help; and so they will be afraid to stand united during bargaining. With the current leadership, there is a very large dollop of vindictiveness thrown in.
It is important to remember: A strong SPEA is what stands between our working conditions (salaries, benefits, etc.) and the inferior working conditions elsewhere at SNC Lavalin.
SPEA’s Unfair Labour Practice Complaint and the Employer’s Smear Campaign
In response to the employer’s email/document ban, SPEA filed an Unfair Labour Practice Complaint at the Labour Board. These proceedings are ongoing. In response to SPEA’s Complaint and in an attempt to “justify” their blocking of emails/information to SPEA, and as we’ve already reported, the company claims that an email (and attachments) sent by Mark Chudak to SPEA staff back in 2020 contains three power point presentations that are “protected” and of “obvious value to malicious actors”. This is untrue.
The power points in question were marked “internal use” and were directly relevant to an upcoming arbitration case for an improperly terminated employee. They went to SPEA staff who had signed NDAs with the employer. Two experts in the field, Laura Flatt and Vincent Lau, assessed these documents for SPEA. They concluded the technical information contained in these documents is very similar to the technical information already available in the public domain (e.g., lectures, conference papers, and books) with the exception of some document reference numbers which would not have been public.
Other documents claimed by the employer to be “trade secrets” and “the foundation of Candu’s license to operate in the nuclear industry” were small excerpts from the SLN and Candu QA Manuals. The excerpts provided were generic descriptions of various positions relevant to our jurisdictional disputes. These were sent by now retired SPEA Executive Member Diane Damario. We encourage you to read the excerpts and judge for yourselves: Pages 1, 24-35 of the 2019 Candu QAM and pages 1, 17-25, 31-32 of the 2020 SLN QAM. They contain no trade secrets or “foundational” licensing information.
The employer knew about Diane and Mark’s above referenced emails since February of 2022 at the latest. They made grandiose claims about them in their pleadings at the Board. One has to question why no action was taken until now.
Two other employees have also been affected because the employer claims they sent emails to SPEA containing “technical” information. As the proceedings at the Board progressed, the employer came up with a list of hundreds of emails they claim SPEA “stole” from them. These are primarily employee enquiries, nucleus postings, org charts, etc.
One of these employees has been placed on “administrative leave with pay”, like Mark. The other is on paid leave already. The documents these employees sent to SPEA were directly related to employment issues. We haven’t had a chance to analyze them yet, but we can say there were no restricted, classified or protected documents amongst them. They sent these documents to SPEA staff who have signed NDAs; and SPEA is supposed to be on a “white list” in any event (pursuant to a 2015 grievance settlement which placed SPEA on the preferred vendors list and was not time limited).
The employer would not provide any of these employees with specifics during their meetings yesterday. We are gleaning the specifics from what the employer filed at the Board and our own records.
The suspensions wreak of vindictiveness, of retaliation for union activity, and of an attempt to intimidate the membership. The suspensions are the actions of a bully. The same kind of bully who last summer ordered employees back to the office with one business day’s notice.
Many members have offered their support to Mark and have suggested SPEA needs to take some kind of action. We will be assessing our next steps over the coming days and welcome your ideas. We will be meeting with CARs this Friday and will schedule an online membership meeting next week.
A Final Note of Caution Regarding Sending Documents to any Non-Security Cleared Individuals
The suspension letters state that the employer is engaged in an investigation regarding the “access, use and release of information beyond the Candu Energy Inc. server to non security-cleared individuals and/or entities.” The letters go on to state that “While this investigation is ongoing, given the evidence we have to date regarding information you have sent to external non-security cleared individuals/third parties and the commercial and security concerns related to these breaches, you are being placed on a paid administrative leave pending the outcome of this investigation”. The employer’s filings at the Board make it clear that the security clearances required are federal government security clearances.
SPEA staff have signed NDAs, just as many of Candu’s clients/suppliers etc. have done (staff are not currently under an NDA because the employer refuses to sign a new one following the expiration of the previous NDA in the fall of 2021). In light of the above, it would appear that your employment is in jeopardy if you provide any internal documents to any outside individual or entity, even if they have signed NDAs and are on a “white list”. You are advised to ensure that the recipient of any information has obtained PSPC (federal government) security clearance before sharing internal documents. This would include employees at other SNC entities, Atkins, etc., unless the recipient can verify federal government security clearance.
Please let us know (in confidence) if you have any concerns with documents you are being asked to send to non-security cleared entities. If your manager directs you to do so, you may wish to obtain that direction in writing, lest a bully employer decides to use it against you in the future. If you have any questions or concerns or information on this, contact: Denise.Coombs@spea.ca.
While on leave, Mark will continue to volunteer his time for SPEA and can be reached at Mark.Chudak@spea.ca. We have assured Mark and the other two employees – who are understandably rattled – that SPEA will take care of them.