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GN workers get fatter pay cheques July 2

Northern allowance payments jump by as much as $4,000

By JIM BELL

Government of Nunavut employees will get bigger pay cheques on July 2, their next pay day, after a new wage deal between the GN and the Nunavut Employees Union was signed last week.

The collective agreement, ratified early last week by union members in a Nunavut-wide vote, covers the period between April 1, 2003 and Sept. 30, 2006, and affects about 1,800 workers – about one-third of people in Nunavut who have jobs.

GN workers will not only see the effect of higher wages and bigger northern allowance payments in their July 2 pay cheques – they will also get to fatten their bank accounts with retroactive pay dating back to April 1, 2003. “Retroactive” pay covers the difference between what workers would have received had the collective agreement existed 14 months ago and the amount of pay that they actually got during that time.

Doug Workman, the NEU president, said about 90 per cent of union members said yes to the agreement. The ratification vote was conducted via a mail-in ballot sent out after the two sides reached a tentative agreement early in April, and ballots were counted in Yellowknife on June 7.

“It’s an amazing day,” Workman said at the signing ceremony, attended by a small group of GN bureaucrats and NEU officials gathered in the lobby of the legislative assembly building in Iqaluit.

The deal provides workers with a 3 per cent wage increase in each of the first three years of the collective agreement, with a 1.5 per cent increase in the final six months.

That means GN employees will benefit from a 6 per cent rise in their pay cheques on July 2.

The decisive issue, though, was likely the government’s willingness to put more money into the “Nunavut northern allowance.” These extra payments are intended to cover vacation travel and the higher cost of living in small Nunavut communities.

The average increase in the northern allowance is worth between $1,100 to $1,400 per community, although employees in some communities, such as Arviat and Taloyoak, will see northern allowance increases of between $3,000 and $4,000 a year.

Each Nunavut community is designated with a different northern allowance, with workers in the smallest and most isolated communities getting the largest payments.

Workman said the union is also pleased with provisions in the new collective agreement covering various forms of leave for employees.

But the new deal still represents a major climb-down from the NEU’s bargaining position last fall, when negotiations began.

At the time, they proposed huge increases in the northern allowance, tieing it to family size, provisions for “cultural leave,” and a new definition of “immediate family.”

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