Iqaluit workers could lose staff housing

Wage deal creates new staff housing policy for city


The new labour deal between the City of Iqaluit and its employees was negotiated in a record three to four days – but now some city staff may wonder whether, to strike a quick deal, their needs were sacrificed by negotiators from the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

Only days after their new collective agreement was ratified by city council and the union, workers living in six units learned they might have to find new places to live by the end of October.

The new deal – ratified by the city and its workers in mid-August – contains a new, uniform housing allowance.

Each employee will now get the same amount – $700 a month from July 2003 onward, with a $50-a-month increase scheduled in 2004 and another one in 2005.

The city will ask three unionized employees who will receive the new housing allowance to renegotiate their own leases with the landlords who own the units. It will require another three unionized employees to leave their city-owned duplexes to make room for non-union managers.

Ian Freemantle, the city’s chief administrator, said the city currently rents housing at considerable expense for those senior managers.

But if the affected workers can’t find new places to live, some may quit their jobs with the city.

“The unfortunate thing is that there’s no housing in Iqaluit,” said one worker affected by the city’s decision, who asked not to be identified.

“It’s a tough situation.”

The city’s leases on the three rented units will expire in October, and the city will not renew them. The City of Iqaluit had been paying the leases on behalf of the affected workers, and collecting only a small amount of rent from them.

“After that, you’re the same as any others,” said Freemantle. “You’ve got to make your own contract [with the landlords].”

The situation arose after the ratification of a new collective agreement between the city and its unionized workers that – in effect – creates a new staff housing policy for the City of Iqaluit.

Until now, different employees got different amounts. Forty-one employees were receiving $640 a month, 15 were receiving $440, one was receiving $200, and some received no housing allowance.

“People were saying it was unfair,” Freemantle said. “There was a huge inequity.”

He added union negotiators knew about the impact the new labour deal could have on staff housing. But Doug Workman, the president of the Nunavut Employees’ Union, said that’s not the case.

“The way we saw it is that we would level the playing field,” Workman said.

But he added union negotiators didn’t foresee the city would ask tenants to leave their units.

“We are working on that,” Workman said.

Workman said Iqaluit doesn’t want to lose its employees over this issue either, although at press time, the workers threatened by the loss of their housing on Oct. 31 hadn’t received any notice of a change.

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