Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavik September 12, 2018 - 10:45 am

KRG employees’ union stages protest as councillors meet

Five months after agreement on principle reached, contract has yet to be finalized

SARAH ROGERS
More than a dozen employees demonstrated in the lobby of the KRG’s head office in Kuujjuaq on Sept. 10, blowing whistles and chanting “We want our contract!” (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
More than a dozen employees demonstrated in the lobby of the KRG’s head office in Kuujjuaq on Sept. 10, blowing whistles and chanting “We want our contract!” (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
A KRG employee union member in Kangirsuk leads an action at the community's airport Sept. 10, urging KRG management to respect the agreement in principle reach last April. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KRGEU)
A KRG employee union member in Kangirsuk leads an action at the community's airport Sept. 10, urging KRG management to respect the agreement in principle reach last April. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KRGEU)

KUUJJUAQ—Whistle blasts and chanting could be heard through the boardroom walls as Kativik Regional Government councillors met on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

The commotion, made in the lobby of the KRG’s head office, was caused by more than a dozen members of the Kativik Regional Government Employees’ Union. Their chant: “We want our contract!”

The KRGEU, made up of 200 general employees and 66 federal transport workers, has been without a contract since December 2015.

The union and KRG management made headway this past April, when the two parties signed an agreement in principle.

But almost five months later, the contract has yet to be finalized, which has left union members frustrated.

“We’ve been without a contract for the better part of three years,” said KRGEU president Victor Mesher.

“I think this is the longest negotiation without contract completion in the history of the organization.”

Last April, the two parties agreed in principle to a 2.5 per cent wage increase for 2016, 2017 and 2018 and a two per cent increase for 2019.

Both sides also agreed on an extra week of vacation for employees with at least 10 years’ experience, the union said, as well as the possibility of allowing employees to cash out a portion of their annual leave.

But there’s a dispute now over a letter of agreement to adjust the salary scale for certain classes of employment, which appears to have stalled the finalizing of the contract.

“The collective agreements have yet to be signed because of some errors in the language found within the collective agreement, which we believe was an oversight by the union,” Guy Poirier, director of the KRG’s human resources department, told regional councillors on Sept. 11.

“We have and are proactive in getting this matter resolved.”

Poirier said the KRG has informed unionized employees that they’ll begin receiving their newly negotiated wages starting on Sept. 30.

But it’s unclear if and how the parties can resolve the dispute over the agreement’s wording.

“They want us to set that aside and renegotiate,” Mesher said. “But our members already voted on it.”

Mesher said the union has filed a complaint to Quebec’s labour relations commission, with the hope that will move the process forward.

Even if the new contract is put in place by the fall, it will only run until December 2019, meaning the union will be back at the negotiating table in a little more than a year.

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