Union of Northern Workers (UNW) members braved -37 C weather to show their readiness to strike today.
Dozens of members and supporters picketed in front of the government building on 49 Street at lunchtime ahead of mediation next week. The union and the GNWT have been negotiating a new collective agreement since January 2016.
UNW president Todd Parsons thanked members and supporters for coming out and braving the cold.
“It’s very heartening to see members of the UNW standing up and fighting for what’s right!” he said.
“Enough is enough. It’s time to resolve this. It’s simple.”
The union wants the government to return to the table and “provide fair, negotiated settlement” for all three groups of employees; the government group, the power corporation and Hay River Health and Social Services Authority, Parsons said.
“We are not bluffing,” he said.
“We will strike if you don’t give us a fair deal.”
The union and the GNWT are scheduled to head back to the bargaining table next weekend.
“We are going to continue to fight this and next weekend will be the last weekend,” said Parsons. “We’ll get a deal or we’re going to walk.”
The community depends on its public servants said Parsons.
“Proud public servants, fighting for crumbs. We’re only asking right now for cost of living increase for Christ’s sake!”
Parsons said the government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus on infrastructure.
“Give us a portion of that money,” he said.
“We deserve to thrive in the North. How can we thrive when we live paycheque to paycheque?”
Many at the picket voiced their frustrations with the government’s negotiations.
Local 33 and GNWT bargaining member Josee-Ann Thibault spoke at the picket on Friday.
“We’re here today to tell our employer we need them to meaningfully negotiate during mediation next week, something they have failed to do in the last three years,” said Thibault.
Local 11 chief shop steward Crystal Walsh said her young son wanted to be there in support, but the weather was too cold for him.
“Many of you here today have friends and family members that support you,” said Walsh.
“These friends and family members may also be impacted by this strike, whether they own local businesses, or feel the effects of the penny-pinching in other ways, they know our financial stress right now.”
Department of Finance spokespersonTodd Sasaki said both parties will head back to mediation along with mediator Vince Ready next week.
“The GNWT will be attending the February 8 and 9 mediation with the sole goal of concluding a new collective agreement,” said Sasaki in an email.
Under the Public Service Act, when mediation concludes, the mediator will 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.
“In our view if the parties are unable to conclude an agreement at the upcoming mediation, the GNWT and the UNW should be jointly requesting that Mr. Ready provide the parties with recommendations to resolve the outstanding issues,” stated Sasaki.