City workers who are part of the Union of Northern Workers (UNW) will vote Tuesday whether to go on strike.

One hundred and ninety-two of 277 City of Yellowknife staff were members of UNW Local 345 as of the end of December, according to Richard McIntosh, spokesperson for the municipality.

Negotiations began last October but took a turn for the worse the following month.

According to the UNW’s bargaining team, the union faced strong pressure from the City of Yellowknife.

“The city tried to force our hand and make us negotiate with ourselves. After a long day at the table and assessing our position, we decided to reconvene as a team,” reads a statement from bargaining team members Reilly MacNeil, Geraldine Penny, Karlee McKay, Maxime Thibault-Gingras and Anne Marie Thistle. “After the team had been released, the city’s negotiator decided to reach out to give us an ultimatum that stated that we had to give them a new proposal by 9 a.m. the next day or face (an) impasse.

“While we were working this morning (Nov. 3, 2022), the city reached out and declared (an) impasse without giving us proper time to work on things.”

An impasse is called when one or both negotiating parties feels that the other party is unable to come to an agreement without someone having to mediate between both parties. The labour board appointed a conciliator to encourage negotiations between the UNW and the municipality.

UNW president Gayla Thunstrom and Lorraine Rousseau, regional executive vice-president in the North for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said the conciliator was unsuccessful in attempts to mediate negotiations. The union has now put forward a vote to go on strike in response to the city’s “intimidation tactics.”

“Our City of Yellowknife members will be exercising their legal right to take a strike vote, given the final offer and intimidation tactics from the employer last month after conciliation failed and exchanges between the parties have broken down.”

The union leaders also stated that the UNW was not “looking to bargain in the media,” and will be consulting their members on how to move forward.

The city didn’t respond to a request for comment on the situation, indicating that a statement would be forthcoming on Jan. 18, the day after the vote.

In 2015, Town of Hay River employees went on strike for six months until the union and municipal government settled on an agreement.

Jonathan Gardiner

After a tough break looking for employment in Alberta, I moved to Yellowknife in 2017 and became a multimedia journalist in 2022. I enjoy the networking side of my job, and I also aspire to write my...

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