Feds should step in on Iqaluit Housing Authority strike, national PSAC head says

Nunavut Employees Union members have been striking for 10 weeks; 200 attend rally Friday outside legislative assembly

Around 200 people rallied in front of the legislative assembly on Friday in support of 13 housing workers on strike in Iqaluit. Most of the people rallying were part of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, a national labour union. (Photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

The national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada wants the federal government to get involved in the strike by 13 workers at the Iqaluit Housing Authority.

On Day 70 of the strike that started March 17, approximately 200 supporters showed up at an afternoon rally Friday outside Nunavut’s legislative assembly.

Chris Aylward, the national president of PSAC, who attended the rally, echoed the Nunavut Employees Union’s claim that the housing authority is using replacement workers during the strike.

Aylward told Nunatsiaq News he has requested to meet with federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan over the issue.

The housing authority has previously denied using replacement workers during the strike. It did not respond Friday to a request for comment on the rally.

“What [the Iqaluit Housing Authority] is doing is not fair,” said one rally supporter, Lenny Panigayak, who said he used to be a housing worker in Iqaluit.

He said he hopes the striking workers not only get better wages, but that a deal means better wages for housing workers all across Nunavut.

The NEU says it is negotiating for for better wages and benefits, such as compensation for speaking Inuktitut on the job.

Unionized workers at Iqaluit Housing authority are trying to get a new contract. Their previous agreement expired in 2020 but negotiations broke down months ago.

Rally participants were mostly members of Public Service Alliance of Canada North, the northern division of the national union to which the NEU also belongs. The northern division is holding a convention this weekend in Iqaluit.

Jason Rochon, president of the NEU, was cheered at the rally when he said approximately $20,000 was raised at the convention for the striking housing workers.

Winnie Hoe, from Whitehorse, said she was at the rally to support the housing workers because having to strike for more than two months “is very concerning to me.”

Public Service Alliance of Canada national president Chris Aylward was in attendance at the rally in Iqaluit on Friday. (Photo by David Lochead)

Also in attendance to show her support was Iqaluit-Sinaa MLA Janet Pitsiulaaq  Brewster.

Aylward said in terms of wages, the housing authority’s recent offer of 7.25 per cent over a five-year period is not good enough.

That offer was revealed Thursday in a statement from housing authority spokesperson Kendra King, who said the striking workers were also being offered a lump sum payment of 3.5 per cent to help deal with the effects of inflation.

Rochon responded the same day, saying his union is seeking a deal that accounts for inflation through yearly wage increases. He said the union wants a 2.5 per cent yearly wage increase at the start of the deal and 3.5 per cent increase by the end of it.

During question period at the Nunavut legislative assembly Friday, Brewster asked Lorne Kusugak, the minister responsible for Nunavut Housing Corporation, to clarify what steps he is taking to resolve the 10-week-old strike.

Kusugak reiterated the housing corporation does not have a role in negotiations and that the talks are strictly between the housing authority and the union. Kusugak said his office has not interacted with the housing authority.

Brewster also asked him about progress on a report aimed at improving local housing governance models and whether that would give more or less autonomy to organizations like the Iqaluit Housing Authority.

Kusugak said work on the report continues, and when it is finished “I’d be more than happy to share it.”

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(16) Comments:

  1. Posted by Weird on

    This is getting weird, in this article the union are not mentioning that secret market adjustment that they are asking for, on top of the percentages increase.

    then, when looking in the iqaluit housing current collective agreement, it says that they do already receive bilingual bonus. Here is what is says

    “Where a full-time or part-time employee is required on a day to day operation on the job to speak two or more of English, Inuktitut and French there shall be paid an annual bilingual bonus of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) to be paid in two lump sum bonus cheques in mid-July and mid-December. The Labour/Management Committee will meet to review the entitlement to ensure that the day to day requirement is consistently applied.”

    It seems like this union is trying to mislead the public. C’mon guys, lets hear details on the market adjustment!!!

    • Posted by Make Iqaluit Great Again on

      What even weirder is the housing authority’s previous denials of using replacement workers. That must be a flat out lie

    • Posted by Jim on

      Seems like some people are experts at misleading. Just because it’s in a contract doesn’t mean management is giving it workers.

  2. Posted by Non Employee Unit on

    NEU must have a terrible negotiator! I wonder if Hamlet of Kinngait ever got their agreement too?

  3. Posted by Kusugak is out to lunch on

    It’s time he starts answering questions. He has been a huge disappointment

    • Posted by Pangloss on

      If you had known how limited his capabilities were from the start you would not have been disappointed.

  4. Posted by Jimmy K on

    Nice to see a MLA supporting the striking workers.

    • Posted by Mephistopheles on

      What if the tenants are happy without the striking “maintenance” people currently on strike?

      • Posted by lol the “tenants” on

        Ya when it’s free social housing you’re not a tenant.

        • Posted by John K on

          Of course they are.

          This comes off as bitter and petulant.

  5. Posted by Nancy P on

    IHA needs to get back to the table and negotiate.

    • Posted by Balls in unions court on

      It says that IHA ended the lock out and tried. I think it is the union with no concessions at the moment, not willing to budget on absolutely anything.

  6. Posted by Bert Rose on

    “The national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada wants the federal government to get involved in the strike by 13 workers at the Iqaluit Housing Authority.”
    Please tell me it isn’t so? How could the head of one of the largest Unions in Canada be so utterly out of touch with reality?

    • Posted by Wheels Keep Turning on

      PSAC is only about optics, now. Regardless of any negotiation, they have the funds to offer more support to striking workers.
      PSAC is a multi-million dollar industry that hides behind its union members.

  7. Posted by Hunter on

    On the bright side IHA is saving a lot of money not paying these workers that are on strike.

    Maybe the IHA are getting more work done for cheaper after these workers went on strike.

  8. Posted by Umingmak on

    IHA has been 100% transparent and put their offer out to the public. The NEU continues to refuse to divulge its counter-offer. It’s pretty obvious who’s at fault here, and it’s not IHA.


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