Nuclear Scientists Seek Whistle-Blower Protection in New Contract
Canadian nuclear scientists are looking for assurances that they can speak out about safety issues at two research facilities in Ontario and Manitoba “without fear of embarrassing their managers or being told to keep problems under wraps,” the Globe and Mail reports this week.
The news follows a whistle-blowers’ report to Michael Binder, president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), citing five different instances in which commission staff allegedly suppressed risk or compliance information that pertained to the safety of operating nuclear reactors.
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“When our members fight for scientific integrity to be in the collective agreement, they’re not just fighting for their own right as regulatory scientists, they’re also fighting for the rights of every Canadian to live in safety,” said Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC).
“The situation with specialists at the nuclear regulator is a clear case of that,” she added. “After a decade of disregard for the advice of public service professionals, we want to see real change reflected in our collective agreements.”
The unionized employees at the CNSC, and at the Chalk River and Whiteshell nuclear research stations, have been negotiating a new contract for three years. “Sources familiar with the bargaining say the CNSC workers decided that, with all of the changes that will be occurring at the two facilities, this is the time they should negotiate for the right to point out potential problems,” the Globe reports.
“The CNSC said in an e-mail that its staff have always had scientific freedom to publish their research, that healthy debate is encouraged, that a formal process for resolving differences of professional opinion already exists, and that whistle-blowers can raise concerns anonymously,” writes the Globe’s Gloria Galloway. “But the union says CNSC scientists are extremely fearful of the repercussions they might face for speaking out,” and want assurances written into their contract.