The Union of Northern Workers has its first change of president in nearly two decades.

Gayla Thunstrom, longtime first vice-president, was voted the new president of the territory’s largest union over the weekened after defeating challenger Josee-Anne Spirito with a 40 to 28 vote result.

There were close to 70 delegates in attendance at the virtual 18th Triennial Convention on Oct. 15 to 17.

Melvin Larocque is the new first vice-president while Spirito becomes the second vice-president on the union executive.

Thunstrom replaces Todd Parsons, who has served the UNW as president for 19 years. In his Oct. 12 Labour Views column, Parsons said he looked forward to passing the gavel to the next generation of union leadership but added that many challenges lie ahead, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major game changer for the world of work,” he said. “We have seen our public systems strained to the max as the symptoms of underfunding come to the forefront. We have seen rapid changes in how we work and what is required to make things work.”

Thunstrom and Parsons did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Thunstrom’s win coincides with changes in leadership in northern labour this year.

Lorraine Rousseau replaced Jack Boursassa as the regional executive vice-president in June.

Nikki Tews-Friesen became president of the Northern Territories Federation of Labour last March.

This story will be updated.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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