Teachers urge Ottawa to back them in contract dispute


Teachers have asked Ottawa to overturn GNWT legislation that they say denies their right to free collective bargaining.

The Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association filed a petition this week with the federal government asking it to suspend amendments to the GNWT’s Public Service Act.

“(The changes) make the employment rights of the public service unduly dependent on the unlimited and unrestricted discretion of the government,” said NWTTA President Patricia Thomas. “That’s just not acceptable.”

The teachers’ association and GNWT have been trying to reach a new contract settlement since last April. In December, 68 per cent of the membership rejected the government’s final offer.

The GNWT then told the association it would use the legislation to impose a retroactive settlement, which includes an across-the-board salary rollback of 6.25 per cent, Thomas said.

The petition claims that changes to the act breach legal guarantees of free collective bargaining by overriding existing collective agreements.

It also states that the changes also allow the GNWT to impose terms and conditions of employment on teachers and other public service workers prior to the conclusion of negotiations, mediation, or before a mediator’s report is issued or received.

“The changes are repugnant to fundamental federal labour relations principles and policy,” Thomas said. “They are also in breach of international labour relations obligations as undertaken by Canada and do not satisfy the criteria for federal subordinate legislation.”

Thomas said the association has been backed into a corner and will do everything it can to reach an acceptable contract for its membership.

She said a federal disallowance of the changes, or legal action through the courts are the only options.

“We’ve got strong support,” she said. “We’re not going to abandon that support.”

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