The Union of Northern Workers (UNW) will be holding a press conference on the status of negotiations at its offices tomorrow afternoon.
The territorial government and its worker’s union have been negotiating a new collective agreement since January 2016 and are headed back to the bargaining table this weekend.
The union says the territorial government has rejected its offer of binding arbitration, which means anything the two parties can’t resolve is referred to the arbitrator to resolve.
The main difference between an arbitrator and a mediator is that an arbitrator can render a legally binding decision that both parties must honour, where the latter can only make recommendations to resolve the dispute.
The territorial government has been mum about its willingness to accept binding arbitration to date.
“We do believe that an arbitrator will provide us with a fairer offer than what the employer is offering us,” said UNW president Todd Parsons in an interview last week.
The GNWT has agreed to mediation, wherein a mediator has 14 days to either provide both parties with a report recommending a resolution of their differences or stating that he will not make recommendations and will give the reasons why.
“The problem is, the Public Service Act states that neither party is bound by the recommendations of the mediator,” said Parsons. “Which basically nullifies the work of the recommendations.”
“If the employer was prepared we would say going into mediation, beforehand, that what we can’t resolve at the mediated process, we’ll refer anything outstanding to the mediator and we’ll live by his final and binding decision.”
Parsons says if they don’t get a deal at mediation, they won’t be waiting two weeks for the mediator’s report.
“Job action will be immediate,” he said, adding it’s highly possible they will strike as early as next week if no deal is reached.
Dozens of UNW members also voiced their frustration with the territorial government at a picket on Friday.
Parsons characterized the upcoming round of negotiation talks as a last chance for the government.
“We’ll get a deal or we’re going to walk,” Parsons said on Friday. “We’re not bluffing.”
The UNW will hold a press conference on February 5 at 3 p.m. at the North Star Building, in the fourth-floor executive boardroom.