Nunavut government wage talks fail to reach deal

NEU seeks five per cent annual wage hikes


Contract talks between the Government of Nunavut and the Nunavut Employees Union have failed to produce a deal, as the two sides remain far apart on salary demands.

A fourth round of negotiations broke down in April after the union walked away from the table and filed for mediation April 20.

But NEU president Doug Workman said the union will return to the bargaining table following a May 6 letter from human resources minister Hunter Tootoo seeking another round of negotiations.

Workman said the union is inclined to “at least try to work [a contract] out” with the GN. He said dates aren’t set yet for the next round of talks, but they could take place this summer.

The NEU is seeking annual raises of five per cent per year for each of three years, plus the adoption of the federal northern allowance package for territorial employees.

The GN is offering a contract with no raise in the first year, and one per cent per year for the next three years, plus changes to the northern allowance benefits its employees already receive.

GN workers have been without a contract since Sept. 2010. Workman said the original plan was to have a new deal in place before the old one expired, but said the GN’s contract offers have been “thin.”

“I’m not prepared to swallow miniscule increases in pay just for the sake of expediency,” he said.

A GN spokeswoman declined to comment on the negotiations.

The last NEU contract won major pay hikes for government workers — 19 per cent spread over five years — which cost the GN around $92 million.

But this time the government is mired in a $50 million budget deficit, making money harder to come by. And the disagreement over the northern allowance formula dates back to the last time the two sides hammered out a contract.

Workman said the two sides are also stuck on proposals regarding various types of employee leave.

He said the union is seeking a new option of personal leave without pay that the government is resisting.

“That [kind of leave] keeps people longer,” Workman said. “I thought that was going to be one of the first things they [the government] signed off on.”

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