Arctic Bay hamlet workers say yes to a strike
Conciliator now working to help resolve wage-benefit dispute
About 20 unionized workers at the Hamlet of Arctic Bay voted last week to go on strike if continuing wage-benefit talks and conciliation efforts fail, their union said Oct. 31 in a news release.
“We just want fairness,” bargaining team member Richard Bohlender said in the release.
The hamlet workers are represented by the Nunavut Employees Union, part of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
One of the biggest issues in the dispute is the size of the annual northern allowance payment that Arctic Bay’s hamlet employees receive.
They get an annual northern allowance of less than $8,000 a year.
But the union complains workers at the nearby Hamlet of Pond Inlet get an annual northern allowance of more than $24,000, while workers at the Hamlet of Resolute Bay get more than $26,000.
Government of Nunavut workers in Arctic Bay get an annual northern allowance of $24,500.
“We want to be properly compensated for our hard work, just like hamlet employees in Pond Inlet and Resolute Bay are, and just like Government of Nunavut employees are compensated in our own community,” Bohlender said in the release.
The current collective agreement between the union and the hamlet expired Dec. 31, 2016, and until last week, the two sides held only one bargaining session.
In that round, the employer offered three-year annual wage increases of 0 per cent, 1 per cent and 1 per cent and only a “modest improvement” to the northern allowance over the life of a proposed new three-year contract, the union said.
The union said those proposed increases do not keep pace with inflation.
“Key unresolved issues at the bargaining table include wage increases that keep up with inflation, the Nunavut Northern Allowance, and the unfair treatment of casual employees,” the union said.
The union did not specify what they mean by “unfair treatment” of casuals, but they alleged in their statement that the employer has been breaching the collective agreement.
“The hamlet workers have been clear in their direction. PSAC North supports their effort to seek fair conditions from an employer that has been violating the collective agreement for quite some time,” said Jack Bourassa, a regional northern vice-president of PSAC.
“I look forward to working with hamlet employees to find a resolution and avoid disruptions to people who rely on these services,” Bourassa said.
Last week, the two sides sat down with a conciliator to try to resolve their dispute but a resolution does not yet appear to be in sight.
The affected employees include truck drivers, heavy equipment operators, waste service personnel, heritage centre staff, mechanics, water delivery personnel and administrative workers.