Unionized city workers demonstrate at Iqaluit City Hall
NEU upset that presentation to city councillors was re-scheduled
About 20 unionized employees of the City of Iqaluit, weearing neon green shirts reading, “I support my bargaining team,” gathered outside the doors of city hall as mayor Madeleine Redfern and other city councillors arrived for regular city council meetings Aug. 23.
The demonstration followed the mayor’s postponement of a Nunavut Employees Union and Public Service Alliance of Canada delegation, which was scheduled to speak before council that evening, according to the city’s pre-released agenda.
Since January, the city has been in tense negotiations with union representatives on a new collective bargaining agreement for City of Iqaluit employees.
In March, city employees burned letters, issued by city administration and given to all unionized employees notifying them of a two-year wage freeze, along with proposed benefit reductions.
The NEU president, Bill Fennell, told Nunatsiaq News outside city hall that union and city negotiators last met in June, with no success.
“It didn’t go well,” Fennell said. “It’s pretty much at an impasse. They’re entrenched and not willing to negotiate. We named some movement, they didn’t.”
Fennell is calling for a federal conciliator to be appointed in the negotiations, but added he was “not sure” if the letter requesting the conciliator had been sent.
“There’s some strategies involved,” he said.
The northern regional executive vice president for PSAC, Jack Bourassa, said he met with Redfern earlier Aug. 23 to reschedule the meeting.
“I was speaking with her today. We just both agreed that conversations, as they relate to labour relations, would be better dealt in an in-camera session when we can actually sit and have time to discuss with council members themselves,” he said.
Bourassa was scheduled to appear, alongside Bill Fennell, as part of the union delegation at the council meeting.
Redfern did not specify a date for the rescheduled meeting.
“It was agreed that we would postpone it. That was what was agreed,” she said.
“There was no set timeline for when it will come back.”
Fennel claims Redfern misunderstood the purpose of the delegation and that the union would try bargaining with council directly.
“We’re just here to support the bargaining team and do a short presentation on the labour movement and how it works,” Fennell explained, adding that he was notified of the cancelled delegation Aug. 19.
“There would have been a small part about what’s going on [currently], but it was a minute and a half out of a five-minute presentation.”
Several city employees sat in chambers during the council meeting, but did not disrupt proceedings.
Redfern acknowledged the city employees during a statement and promised a “future presentation to council” from the union representatives.