Housing employees brace for strike after issuing 72-hour notice to Iqaluit Housing Authority

Nunavut Employees Union says ‘fair’ wage offer is needed to avoid labour disruption

Talks over a new collective agreement for Nunavut Employees Union members employed by the Iqaluit Housing Authority stalled last August. The housing authority’s previous collective agreement with the union expired June 30, 2020. (File photo)

By Meral Jamal

The union representing about two dozen Iqaluit Housing Authority employees served a strike notice this week, following a breakdown in negotiations over a new collective agreement with the employer last August.

The employees, who are members of the Nunavut Employees Union, issued a 72-hour strike notice to the housing authority Monday. That sets the stage for workers to go on strike, though the union has not yet confirmed when that would start.

Union members will set a date for the strike to begin after it is determined which workers will be deemed essential, meaning they are ineligible to strike, and which are non-essential.

One of the biggest setbacks in the agreement put forth by the housing authority is the proposed wage increase, according to Public Service Alliance of Canada north regional executive vice-president Lorraine Rousseau.

The NEU, which represents the Iqaluit Housing Authority’s unionized members, is a member of PSAC.

The housing authority has offered annual wage increases of 1.25 per cent and 1.5 per cent per year, Rousseau said.

Those proposed increases would negatively impact the employees, she said, especially given the high cost of living as well as high inflation across the country.

Canada’s inflation rate between August 2021 and 2022, when talks first stalled, was 7 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

PSAC and the NEU did not specify what wage increase the employees are seeking in the new agreement.

Rousseau did say current wages are forcing employees to face a lower quality of living.

“The workers tell us that they have to choose whether or not to buy groceries. And many of them — they are the only breadwinners for their families,” she said.

“Workers who are trying to thrive are barely surviving.”

The approximately 23 unionized employees provide a range of services at the housing authority, including maintenance services such as repairing heating, plumbing, windows and locks, as well as administrative support such as preparing leases.

Nicky Nauyuk, a housing authority plumber and union bargaining team member, said employees like him are simply looking for a fair agreement.

“All we are looking for is fair wages that allow us to buy groceries and pay for our housing,” he said in an emailed statement from the union.

“The IHA is in mess and the services we provide every day are important. We work hard for Iqaluit and all we are asking is to be treated and paid fairly.”

“We don’t want to have to go on strike and inconvenience people in Iqaluit, but if the IHA does not want to pay or treat us fairly, what choice do we have?” Nauyuk added.

In a statement, the Iqaluit Housing Authority said it has taken the appropriate steps to ensure all essential services will remain in place in the event of a strike and it remains “ready and able to negotiate with the Union.”

“Although some progress was made during the negotiation process, PSAC failed to accept our proposal as it relates to wages and housing allowances,” the housing authority said in an email release to Nunatsiaq News.

“We are confident that we offered a fair proposal that is consistent, if not better, than other recent negotiations between PSAC and the Government of Nunavut.”

Rousseau said the NEU and PSAC continue to call for a fair collective agreement for Iqaluit Housing Authority workers.

They are also calling on the Nunavut Housing Corporation, of which the territory’s housing authorities are a part, to accept and address the demands made by workers.

“We’re asking Nunavut Housing Corporation to take a long-term view of how housing employees across Nunavut are compensated,” Rousseau said.

“We’re calling on the Nunavut Housing Corporation to intervene and search for joint solutions.”

Talks to reach a new collective agreement for NEU members at the Iqaluit Housing Authority stalled last August. The previous contract expired June 30, 2020.

Along with disagreement on wages, the union says workers are also unwilling to accept concessions to existing sick leave, vacation, and time off for union business provisions that the housing authority asked for during earlier talks.

A federal mediator was appointed last fall, Rousseau said, but failed to bring the two sides together in an agreement.

 

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northener on

    You mean to tell me somebody over has been working? I’ve called multiple times over electrical in my appartment only to have someone say ok i’ll make a work order for that and never has anyone came by. I’ve had no landline or internet for the past 2 weeks because housing cant produce a key for the maintenance room to northwestel, and what kind of landlord only gives rent invoices if your behind on rent?

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    • Posted by YFB on

      Everytime I drive by that office always see buncha staff out side smoking ? ya sounds like they’re working too hard and can’t afford groceries ?

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    • Posted by LOL on

      Lol. Get rekt, this is Nunavut, No one cares about your problems.

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    • Posted by LOL on

      The longer you stay, the longer you see the apathy around you. Nothing changes for the better in a reasonable amount of time. Do yourself a favour and move back south; you’re better off struggling there, at least you have modern amenities.

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  2. Posted by Justin Reynolds on

    NHC needs to get a clue. How low will they go? So disconnected.

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