Striking Iqaluit Housing Authority workers now locked out by employer

Housing authority says both sides agreed to designate oil burner mechanic as essential worker, will continue work during ongoing dispute

Unionized Iqaluit Housing Authority workers are now locked out of their workplace after beginning a strike on March 17. (Photo by Meral Jamal)

By Meral Jamal

Unionized employees at the Iqaluit Housing Authority who went on strike Friday have officially been locked out of their workplace.

The workers, represented by the Nunavut Employees Union, were served notice by the housing authority March 15 that they would be locked out as of Sunday.

That followed a 72-hour strike notice issued March 13 by the union, which meant it could legally take strike action as of Friday.

A lockout, according to Canada’s Labour Relations Board, occurs when an employer closes a place of employment or suspends the work to be done by bargaining unit employees.

Housing authority assistant manager Kendra King said Monday that of the 15 unionized employees who work there, 14 have been locked out. The union told Nunatsiaq News 23 members are employed at the Iqaluit Housing Authority.

The authority and the union have agreed to designate the oil burner mechanic as an essential worker, meaning he will continue to work during the labour dispute, King said.

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She said the housing authority operates more than 540 public housing units in Iqaluit.

In an emailed statement, she said a plan to “ensure the upkeep of maintenance on public housing units” during the labour dispute has been implemented.

However, she did not confirm what specific steps have been taken to accomplish that.

King said the housing authority “remains willing and prepared to negotiate a fair settlement as soon as possible,” but it determined that a lockout is “a necessary step to ensure that services are maintained on a consistent basis during this labour dispute.”

James Kaylor, a communications specialist with the NEU, said union members continue to strike outside their workplace.

“They are out again braving the cold in the name of solidarity,” he said via email.

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Unionized workers at the housing authority in Iqaluit have worked without a new collective agreement since June 2020, when the previous contract expired.

The previous collective agreement, in place from 2017 to 2020, covered six administrative staff and 10 maintenance positions.

The highest-paid maintenance positions in the previous agreement included the oil burner mechanic as well as the plumber and electrician, both of whom were paid between $39 and $46 dollars per hour.

The highest-paid administrative positions covered by the previous agreement included the finance and administration officers, who were paid between $32 and $42 per hour.

Previously, NEU president Jason Rochon has said the striking workers want fair increases to wages above the 1.25 per cent and 1.5 per cent he said were proposed by the housing authority.

However, he has declined to say how much union is looking for.

Talks aimed at reaching a new collective agreement broke down last August over differences between the wages offered by the authority as well as concessions to existing sick leave, vacation, and time off for union business provisions.

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(23) Comments:

  1. Posted by 867 on

    $39 to 46 per hour for a electrician or plumber is not enough, assuming they’re fully certified red seal. Those guys can make a lot more other places down south.

    32 to 42 for finance or admin officers seems to be high though, unless they require a degree for these positions.

    • Posted by LaLaLand on

      I’ve seen finance jobs that required as low as grade 10 with experience, if you can believe it.

      • Posted by John K on

        And the results show.

    • Posted by What are the Numbers? on

      Nunatsiaq is going by the positions and wages in the Collective agreement.

      In Ontario the wages for electricians range: 18.00/hr low end. Average is 30.77/hr The high end is 47.50/hr. Most of these have no pension, and no benefits to speak of. Most are working in small businesses.

      So base pay of $39-$46 but how much is their Northern Allowance on top of that?

      How many weeks vacation do they get?

      Do they get a pension?

      Other benefits?

      What I would like to know is how many of the LHO staff actually have Red Seals?
      Is the reason they contract to third parties or southerners because they don’t have Red Seals on staff? Nunatsiaq do a bit more investigating to find out what qualification and specialties these workers have. If they are just labourers then this seems like a fair wage.

      If they are skilled trades people then the proposed increase seems reasonable if they have the other benefits listed.

      • Posted by confused?? on

        Redseal trades people working in Ontario for for $18 an hour ?? not likely

        • Posted by Tired on

          You would probably be surprised.

          The worst employers I’ve ever had were small time construction companies. The outfits with only a handful of employees have a really easy time taking advantage of young workers, especially when the only certified tradesperson is the boss. I’ve seen grown men learn over lunch that they’ve spent 3 or four years being ripped off by some low rent plumber.

          This contributes significantly to staffing issues in skilled trades. We like to pretend that “people don’t want to work anymore” and that skilled tradies are these noble pillars of our society but that is nonsense and a flagrant cope. These industries dug their own graves and have been digging them since I was a kid. I remember lots of minimum wage ads for five years experience in the early 00’s.

        • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

          Approximately $40.40
          How much does an Electrician make at Red Seal Recruiting in Canada? Average Red Seal Recruiting Electrician hourly pay in Canada is approximately $40.40, which is 27% above the national average.
          Electrician hourly salaries in Canada at Red Seal Recruiting – Indeed

          • Posted by Umingmak on

            Averages across the country are very misleading, as they’re raised quite high by jobs in the oil patch and mines, which pay 1.5 to 2 times as much as any local job. In a city like Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver or Toronto, most journeymen make $30-35/hr at most.

        • Posted by Its a Range on

          Its a range…. The average was 30.77/hr. Assuming those making 18/hr would be new fresh off their apprenticeship and probably working as an in house electrician for a business that requires them such as a factory or property management firm.

    • Posted by S on

      $39 to $46 per hour for a journeyed tradesperson is a decent wage. Appreciate that the wage is for a guaranteed 37.5 hour week, with copious benefits (around 22% of wage) and extensive paid days-off including vacation time, stats, special days, and time-off-in-lieu for overtime. When paid, overtime for work on stat days is at 1.5, 2.0 and even 2.5 times regular wage.

      There is a northern allowance of $1,000 plus per month on top of that, which is essentially untaxed. To top that off, permanent residents receive a daily tax deduction of $11 (annual $4,015) or $22 ($8,030) -depending on housing status. Further, Nunavut has one of the lowest income and sales tax regimes in the country

      Gross annual income is close to $100,000, plus wonderful health and pension benefits, an exceptional time-off package, and an extremely low-production workplace – where folks use the maximum paid time-off that can be eked, work at minimum efficiency, work the clock daily to be paid for 7.5 hours but work only two – saving the remainder of time for rest, recovery, and personal activities.

      Regular (non-trade) maintenance laborers and administration staff receive $32 to $42 per hour for their 7.5 hour day. The same benefits, allowances, performance, and taxation apply as do for the trades.

      Don’t take me wrong. Management and staff within the union group at NEU and in every department and agency of GN reflect the state defined in the comments above – and in every regard.

      Many would wonder how we’ve survived this long though the answer is blatantly clear; there is a virtually unregulated and continuous inflow of external taxpayers’ money to sustain this steadily declining welfare state.

  2. Posted by Pretender on

    Saw a guy today holding a sign that read “hey NHC pretend we’re southerners”.

    Not only is this borderline racist, go ahead and be a “administrative officer” for a housing board down south and enjoy making $20-25 an hour. By the way rent is just as high in toronto as it is in iqaluit. Also, most southerners probably aren’t getting away with being late every day or socializing for half their shifts.

    Nunavut is one of the greatest places to work in the world. Be grateful for that and the job you have.

    • Posted by Unknown on

      What they mean by “treat us like southerners* is how NHC flys up employees to do work in iqaluit, houses them. Pays them 60$ a day for food (840 biweekly) on top of regular pay. While regular staff cannot obtain housing and while NHC also tries to take away benefits for unionized and casual employees.

      • Posted by Dunning–Kruger Effect on

        In the distorted thinking that prevails in much of Nunavut, they are flown up *because* they are southerners.

      • Posted by Why tho? on

        Why do they fly and house workers from up south? Is it because they done have anyone with the right qualifications in town? I don’t think they would do that just to piss off NEU members

      • Posted by Umingmak on

        It seems that you don’t understand exactly why Nunavut needs to bring in southern imports. This is because there are not enough skilled and trained workers in Nunavut to fill vital roles required to run the territory. Southern imports sit in pile 3 of the recruitment process, meaning that they aren’t even considered unless there are no qualified Inuk (pile 1) or non-inuk Nunavummiut (pile 2) applicants.

        Instead of hating southerners and acting like they’re treated better than you are, go to school, pick up those skills, and watch how quickly the GN will jump at the chance to hire someone from Nunavut who can fill these positions.

    • Posted by Tired on

      Nunavut is a decent enough place to work if you have bulls**t threshold to live here. Half my income might be an acceptable price to pay for potable water and more effective institutions.

  3. Posted by Nice on

    Nice to see staff actually sticking together to strike, should have happened with the previous collective agreement for the GN.

  4. Posted by S on

    In Nunavut (and elsewhere) union staff and executive are extensions of the employer’s bureaucracy.

    Typically, a union acts as a bureaucracy against its membership. Its creed is manifested as strict adherence to doctrine, status quo, regimentation, and conflict avoidance.

    Its survival depends on its ability to deceive and align its membership, who, like the general population, fall well below high standards of passion, commitment, conscientiousness, and effort.

    It hires staff whose values and ethic reflect that bureaucratic mandate. Its elected reps at the local, regional, and broader levels are clones of typical politicians in those jurisdictions – conformist, bland, uncreative, ordinary, and disinterested.

    In essence, the union is another layer of bureaucracy against employees – occasionally performing gratuitous acts and making patronizing speeches to mask its complacency, malfeasance, and incompetence.

    • Posted by Frederick riehl on

      Another view from a person who has no idea of how the workplace and employees survive by forming unions to work towards better wages benefits and exceptable working .you choose to attack the only tool employees have to make gains which tells me that your really just another pro management cheer leader

      • Posted by S on

        Thanks for your comment, Frederick. Given your interpretation of mine it’ll be difficult to give credit for yours.

        I’m an advocate of society. I am opposed to concentration and abuse of resources and power, whether it’s in the hands of oligarchs or bureaucrats. I think we are entitled to fair remuneration for our work and that we are responsible for our actions.

        I recognize that it there is far too much complacency and entitlement along the spectrum of adult citizens. Democracy, in Nunavut and the rest of western civilization has been abdicated to a senseless mob of ‘majority rules’ when influence confirms their biases and oligarchy’s imposed group-think when we permit complacency to rule. Curiosity, conscientiousness, and questioning are dismissed and then cancelled.

        Politicians, their plutocrat handlers, mainstream media, and the antisocial-socialists who dominate our institutions and bureaucracy have distorted governance by the people, for the people and of the people to one of useless elections, cloaked under majority rule – by the minority.

        Unions, as they exist, do nothing to better society. There was a time when they did. For you to state otherwise is indicative of a naivete that reflects the perspective of a person who has no idea of how society or the workplace functions

      • Posted by Soothsayer on

        S is a malcontent. These rants are not pro anything, they only mean to relieve the pains inside his/her psyche; this, sadly, is accomplished by dumping toxic trash into the information commons. Attempts to find a larger overarching philosophy here will be fruitless.

    • Posted by John K on

      Are you management?

      Or do you just like the taste of boot?

      • Posted by ?? on

        Mmm delicious

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