Negotiators try to stave off GN strike in last minute talks

Union and government negotiators sat down in Iqaluit this week with a mediator in an attempt to stave off a territorial government employees strike that could happen as early as March.



Officials with both the Nunavut Employees Union and the Nunavut government were tight-lipped about the progress of last-ditch contract talks in Iqaluit this week.

Both sides met on Jan. 20 with a mediator in an attempt to prevent a looming strike by almost 1,300 Nunavut government workers.

The two sides asked the mediator to intervene after contract talks broke down late last year.

There is a media black-out on anything discussed within the current negotiations.

But in an advertisement that NEU placed in the Jan. 19 issue of the Nunatsiaq News, the NEU warned that if mediation fails, Nunavut government workers will have no choice but to go on strike.

“We, the members of the Nunavut Employees Union, don’t want to strike. But all working people — including public employees — deserve fair treatment,” the ad read.

The advertisement also said that if a strike were to happen, government employees would continue to provide essential services, such as health and emergency services, to Nunavummiut.

The threat of a strike action has loomed over the NEU’s wage talks since the fall.

In November, the union broke off negotiations with the territorial government — just one day after talks began.

A week before that, union members had voted 89 per cent in favor of a strike.

A strike in March?

Sources say government officials have already sent out letters to some departments warning employees that a strike may happen by March.

The main issues on the negotiation table are the lack of vacation travel assistance and the high cost of living in Nunavut.

The union is asking the government to bring back the vacation assistance travel benefit that was eliminated in 1996. The GN wasn’t willing to do that, but offered a ‘travel component’ that would give employees four trips to the South each year.

Union members weren’t impressed with that offer, saying it was a poor replacement for the more-generous VTAs. They hoped to discuss travel assistance again during this round of contract talks.

The negotiations have been dragging on since December 1999. The union has been without a collective agreement since its last one expired March 31, 2000.

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