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Over 50 SNOLAB employees in Sudbury on strike after turning down latest offer

Picket lines are up outside a world-renowned physics research lab located deep inside a Sudbury, Ont., mine as 53 workers at SNOLAB voted against a tentative contract Tuesday night. 

United Steelworkers Local 2020-59 represents dozens of workers, from janitorial staff to physicists, at the dark matter research facility with links to Nobel Prize-winning work in years past. 

Pascal Boucher, northeastern Ontario co-ordinator for the United Steelworkers, said the workers turned down a tentative agreement two weeks ago, then worked with a conciliator but voted against the deal that came out of those talks. 

He didn’t give specific details about demands, but said wages and family time are high priorities.

“It’s not a get-rich scheme for them,” said Boucher. “It’s about being respected and being able to live while making SNOLAB a world-class research facility.”

Boucher said workers have been told SNOLAB is “tapped out” financially, but he’s not sure they believe that, given $2 million in public funding was received last October, in addition to an initial $12 million in funding from the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities.

Boucher said everything is peaceful on the picket line as several hundred Vale miners represented by USW Local 6500 cross to go to work in Creighton Mine. 

SNOLAB says that with some 100 non-union staff, operations at the underground laboratory should continue as usual during the strike. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

“People who work at Vale are lawfully required to report to work and we’re not stopping traffic here,” said Boucher.

“If people want to stop in and ask why our members are on strike, people will answer them.”

A spokesperson for SNOLAB said the research facility is continuing to operate as usual, with about 100 non-unionized staff.

A comment is expected later Wednesday from SNOLAB’s executive director, Jodi Cooley.

Past SNOLAB research on neutrino oscillations earned Arthur McDonald the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2015.

Current SNOLAB experiments include research into dark matter, supernovas and studies on the effects of working deep underground, using fruit flies as a model organism.

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