Kusugak names new board at Iqaluit Housing Authority as strike reaches 19 weeks
Move called temporary measure to address labour dispute; NEU president says talks will resume Monday
The entire Iqaluit Housing Authority board of directors has been removed and replaced by six new members.
Lorne Kusugak, the minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corp., announced Friday the shakeup is a temporary measure made in hopes of ending the 19-week-long labour dispute between the housing authority and its 13 striking unionized employees.
The six new directors are all members of the Nunavut Housing Corp., which oversees the Iqaluit Housing Authority.
That strike in Iqaluit began on March 17, and two days later the workers were locked out by the housing authority. The previous collective agreement expired June 30, 2020.
“The new board’s immediate focus will be to return to the bargaining table to achieve a settlement to the IHA labour dispute,” Kusugak said in a news release.
“I have asked the new board to ensure, within the next 90 days, that it stabilize operations at the IHA and then immediately initiate a process to seek out a new board” that does not include Nunavut Housing Corp. staff.
The new board members are Eiryn Devereaux, Juanie Pudluk, Eetuk Groves, Jazmyne Perkins, Jimmy Main and Danio Penuliar.
The release stated the Nunavut Housing Corp. has not been involved in negotiations between the housing authority and Nunavut Employees Union.
However, the release added, “given the length of time of the labour dispute and the lack of progress, more direct involvement from the [housing corporation] is required” now.
“I would like to express my appreciation to the outgoing board members for their dedication and service,” Kusugak said.
He said the Nunavut Housing Corp. “recognizes the challenges and pressures over the past months relative to the labour dispute … and the impact it has had on all individuals including employees, management, the board and tenants.”
Jason Rochon, president of the Nunavut Employees Union, said he’s excited by the appointment of a new board.
“I don’t want to say too much about how they’re conducting themselves, but I am happy that they realized that they needed to make some changes,” he said in a phone interview Friday.
Negotiations between both sides are set to resume Monday.
On July 21, the two sides met for the first time in four months in a bargaining session with a federally appointed mediator in Ottawa. However, talks broke down within hours, according to the union.
The union has said it is seeking improved working conditions and housing benefits as well as wages that keep pace with inflation.
“We’ve really taken direction from our 13 members and we’ve done exactly what they’ve asked us to do and I’m happy to support them,” Rochon said.
“I’m just really excited that we are about to get back to the table and have some really good discussions.”