Kinngait hamlet workers’ strike deadline set for Tuesday
Before unionized workers can take action, union and hamlet must agree on essential, non-essential services: union
Unionized municipal employees in Kinngait have set a strike deadline for first thing Tuesday.
Even so, a strike that soon is highly unlikely — before they can walk off the job, the Nunavut Employees Union and the hamlet must first settle on what’s called a maintenance of activities agreement, says Lorraine Rousseau, the North regional executive vice-president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
The Canada Industrial Relations Board requires both parties to agree on what services will continue to be provided during a strike to “prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public,” she said.
Rousseau said this has been a challenge because the hamlet is insisting that 20 of the 24 positions currently held by union members who want to strike be deemed essential.
This includes positions such as bylaw officer, building maintainer and lead mechanic.
The unionized Kinngait municipal workers voted earlier this month to go on strike as of Tuesday following a breakdown in negotiations over a new contract with the municipality.
“The union believes the employer is being unreasonable by insisting that certain services are essential when in fact some of the positions in the employer’s submission have not been filled for months or even years,” Rousseau said.
In an interview, Kinngait senior administrative officer George Luhowy said the hamlet wants these positions deemed essential because they are critical to the community.
When it comes to the collective agreement, he said the municipality has “essentially offered what we can here at the hamlet.
“We don’t have the funding to go into a deficit.”
Rousseau said the public service alliance and NEU president Jason Rochon have requested a chance to address Kinngait Mayor Timoon Toonoo and the hamlet council.
But Luhowy said the mayor and council are represented in the talks by a negotiator, and will not be meeting with Rochon.
“The [meeting] wouldn’t facilitate a negotiated outcome for the agreement.”