Kinngait hamlet workers hold information picket as they wait to strike

Nunavut Employees Union members were set to strike Nov. 22, continue to await essential services agreement

Nunavut Employees Union members from Kinngait at an information picket during a council meeting in the municipality Tuesday evening. The workers are looking to strike over a breakdown in negotiations for a new contract with the hamlet. (Photo courtesy of the Nunavut Employees Union)

By Meral Jamal

Unionized municipal workers in Kinngait staged an information picket outside the hamlet council meeting Tuesday, as they wait for the ability to act on their threat to strike.

Despite approving a Nov. 22 strike deadline earlier this month, a possible strike remains on hold as the union and municipality wait on Canada’s Industrial Relations Board to rule which jobs are essential or non-essential.

The 24 union members provide key duties, including water and sewer services. They have worked for two and a half years without a contract, after their previous collective agreement expired March 31, 2020.

For a legal strike to go ahead, the Industrial Relations Board requires both parties to agree on what services would continue to be provided during a labour dispute in order to prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public.

The union and municipality have been unable to agree on which positions should be deemed essential, and the decision lies in the hands of the board.

That process could take months, said Nunavut Employees Union president Jason Rochon.

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He said the union has tried to engage with Kinngait Mayor Timoon Toonoo and council who he said are insisting 20 of the 24 positions held by union members, who want to strike, be deemed essential.

That includes jobs in water and sewage services, garbage pickup, snow-plowing and administrative services.

Neither Toonoo nor Kinngait senior administrative officer George Luhowy could be reached for comment Wednesday.

During Tuesday’s information picket, union members handed out pamphlets explaining what they are seeking in a new contract.

Rochon said the mayor, senior administrative officer and councillors were unwilling to engage. The union’s request to speak at council was denied.

“I’m really disappointed, because I really truly believe that negotiations can be done in a fair way and they can be a lot less hostile,” Rochon said of the hamlet’s approach to negotiations.

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“When [the mayor and councillors] say that they care, that’s nice. [But] like caring and saying pretty words doesn’t put food on the table. It’s an opportunity now. We’re asking them to bring action that treats people fairly and compensates people fairly.”


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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Kinngait Strong on

    Sounds about right. I would expect nothing less from the mayor and SAO. Support the workers. Don’t be afraid to communicate.

  2. Posted by Nancy P on

    Thank you to the Municipality workers. My family supports you.

  3. Posted by Worker on

    Our communities live off transfer from GN, we should all just follow what GN negotiated.

  4. Posted by Rochon does not understand Hamlets on

    Rochon needs to give his head a shake. First council is should not be doing union negotiations in a council meeting. They are correct to not engage this way. They are currently at the Bargaining Table and that is were the matter should be dealt with not in a council meeting. If they did do this at a council meeting it would need to be in-camera and not open to the public as they are dealing with staffing matters.

    Second what money tree does Rochon think the Hamlet is going to get this from? He should be barking at the GN not a small understaffed Hamlet. The Hamlet cannot put themselves into deficit in negotiating, so that will either mean all municipale services would need to increase, or the GN pays more. Unlike Iqaluit, Kinngait is not tax based, and does not have the ability to just raise its revenue.

    What NEU should really be doing is negotiating agreements with all Hamlets and the GN at the same time to get standardized base pay across the territories Hamlets.

    Also the threat of a strike in a community that every job is essential is a waste of time!

    • Posted by Shortage on

      It sure is nice to see NEU working after many years of zero activity. It seems everytime you turn around they are doing something or announcincing a deal. I hope the workers in Kinngait get a good deal and it’s nice to see them being supported.


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