Two months in, no movement in Iqaluit Housing Authority strike

Workers walked off the job March 17 followed by lockout; negotiations have not resumed, union says

Iqaluit Housing Authority workers strike in front of the legislative assembly. It has been two months since 13 worrkers there took strike action seeking better wages and benefits. (Photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

Contract talks appear to be at a standstill to end the strike by 13 workers at the Iqaluit Housing Authority that started two months ago.

That’s despite both sides saying late last month that they were ready to resume negotiations. The strike began March 17 and the workers were locked out by the housing authority two days later.

Jason Rochon, president of the Nunavut Employees Union which represents the workers, told Nunatsiaq News on Tuesday there has been no move toward returning to the bargaining table.

He said the workers’ goals haven’t changed: they want better wages, compensation for speaking Inuktitut on the job and better housing opportunities.

“They’re not willing to give local workers what they deserve,” he said of the housing authority.

Rochon said wages need to keep up with high inflation which, according to Statistics Canada, is currently at 4.4 per cent nationally. It peaked at 8.1 per cent last June.

Rochon told said on April 27 the union was seeking a 10.3 per cent wage increase over five years, with market adjustments for positions such as trade helper, plumber and painter.

On Tuesday, he didn’t say whether the union has moved from that position.

In an April 28 media release, the housing authority indicated its most recent offer included a seven-per-cent increase in wages over five years.

The Iqaluit Housing Authority did not respond to a request for a comment about the two-month mark in the labour dispute.

Both Rochon’s and the housing authority’s release of wage offers were in response to questions from Nunatsiaq News, which had obtained an internal email thread from the IHA.

That thread included not only information about the authority’s response to the union’s wage request, but also revealed the authority was concerned over the perception of how it has handled the strike.

At the time, both the union and housing authority said they were ready to resume negotiations.

On Tuesday, Rochon said local residents have shown support for workers on the picket line. He said they are also receiving support from Nunavut MP Lori Idlout as well as federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

The union has planned a rally for the striking workers on May 26 at the Aqsarniit Hotel and Conference Centre.

Other union members from across Nunavut are expected to attend, as are members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada — which the NEU belongs to — from outside the territory.


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(29) Comments:

  1. Posted by Mit on

    All this for like 6 or 7 over-entitled workers? Hardly a strike

    • Posted by Bare Minimum Does not Gain Support on

      Unionized and Government labour faces an urgent call to action in today’s rapidly changing workforce landscape. The expectation from both the public and employers is shifting, demanding not only a fulfillment of responsibilities but also a standard of work that outstrips the bare minimum (or less) required. Just showing up to work is not enough anymore.

      To establish long-lasting support for union workers during regular operations and strike/lockout actions, unions must drive an uncompromising focus to their members on quality, efficiency, and professionalism. This is not merely about delivering the requisite tasks; it is about surpassing expectations, demonstrating value, and proving that union labour is integral to the smooth running of society!

      Only by consistently proving their worth can organized labour counter the stereotypes and prejudices that often undermine their standing and credibility! Maybe Rochon can work on this for the next job action!

  2. Posted by M Buff on

    Why can’t IHA just get back to the table and negotiate.

    • Posted by Let’s get up to speed on

      They’ve made an offer… take it or leave it?

  3. Posted by Local worker on

    13 workers and they won’t compensate Inuktitut language. Sick!

    • Posted by Oh? on

      Would be good if they did like the GN and compensate inuktut speakers who can pass an advanced level inuktut proficiency exam. Is that what IHA is proposing?

  4. Posted by John B on

    Sounds like a fair request from the workers. It’s time the employer starts being fair.

  5. Posted by Mark on

    We saw a scab worker Monday. Thought IHA said that wasn’t true.

    • Posted by Panache on

      At least someone is doing the work, and probably doing it better than it has been done for some time.

  6. Posted by Local worker on

    IHA and NHC can end this strike. My apartment needs repairs. Answer your phone.

    • Posted by Obvious on

      Don’t get intoxicated and smash up doors and windows in your apartment and you won’t need the IHA workers there so often to fix things.

      • Posted by Out there on

        This is why I no longer rent any of my properties, for sale only. I certainly have been burned by this more than once. And its not ‘bad apples.’ Its people, even relatives, I thought I could trust

  7. Posted by Swipe on

    IHA hasn’t handled this strike well. NHC remains as clueless as ever

  8. Posted by Observation on

    under the leadership of Rochon the workers wont budge on what they are asking for, that’s no way to negotiate. In a real legitimate negotiation there is give and take on both sides. Does not seem to be happening here.

  9. Posted by Rochon picked the wrong place to make a stand on

    Public sympathy or support for the non-skilled trade workers striking from the Iqaluit Housing Authority is low, primarily due to the perceived inefficiency and lack of productivity of the workforce. Residents regularly observe employees in transit around town, often not visibly engaged in work-related activities during working hours. This image of the workers appearing inactive or unproductive, even if potentially misleading, has led to a general perception that the workers are not committed to their roles, which feeds a lack of support for their cause during the strike.

    Additionally, the state of local housing units, many of which are in dire need of repair and maintenance, further compounds public antipathy. A persistent lack of tangible improvements in these dwellings raises questions about the efficacy and responsibility of the non-skilled workers of the Housing Authority. The inability of residents to see direct positive results from the work of these employees contributes to the sentiment that their demands during the strike are unwarranted.

    Meanwhile, the strike has not noticeably increased inconvenience for the public since the state of housing maintenance appears unchanged mainly, which further diminishes public support for the strikers. This combination of factors underscores the lack of public sympathy or backing for the striking non-skilled workers from the Iqaluit Housing Authority.

    Also, the Housing Authority has deemed locally-based, ticketed trade personnel as ‘essential’, allowing them to continue working amid the strike. The fact that the only worker classified as essential is the one person with a registered trade implies a damning indictment of the perceived value of the remaining 13 or so workers on strike…..

    Rochon picked the wrong LHO and members to try and set an example for the rest of the Territory!

    • Posted by Iqalungmiut on

      They have no leg to stand on, if they had thier tickets they have some leverage, labourers with fancy names I call em

  10. Posted by Desperately looking for a win on

    Rochon is trying to reset the story around his ability to negotiate a deal. As it is some might say he has proven a little mediocre.

  11. Posted by Out with Rochon on

    Between selling NEU on a garbage deal and not being able to close on this issue I think we can all agree another president is needed. Unions in Nunavut are very very weak looking.

  12. Posted by Zone lighting on

    People bashing local workers in Nunavut. Nothing new. IHA are bullies and are understaffed and can’t keep a manager. Their are big problems at IHA.

    • Posted by John K on

      I always avoided “bashing” by actually doing my job.

      Actually doing your job also happens to be how a bargaining group can go into a negotiation with some chips to play.

      If effective service was being provided to begin with then maybe the employees would have a leg to stand on.

      • Posted by Out there on

        I notice part of your job is the comment section too?

        • Posted by John K on

          I’m glad you noticed!

          I hate to sound immodest but I’m VERY good at what I do. I often find myself so well prepared that I end up with a significant amount of time to kill. This is much more apparent now that we’ve left Nunavut, it has been difficult to adjust to only having to do MY OWN JOB.

          One of the benefits of being competent and qualified.

    • Posted by Old boss on

      As a former manager there I was not a bully. I treated all my workers the same. You come to work I expect you to work or we have an issue. The unfortunate part of this job as manager was I was on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Total burn out. Maintenance budgets were very tight then and not a lot of extra funds available. I would after normal hours go work on units to help get them back online as quickly as possible which I was repeatedly warned not to do but i did anyways. People need proper housing and certain jobs can be easily cut or reduced drastically. These non trade qualified workers should be lucky they even have a job in the first place. By the way the union just loved me ( sarcasm). I stood for no foolishness at all. Now with regards to a language bonus! You want to be paid to speak your native language. Really seriously.

  13. Posted by Hunter on

    Is the Housing Minister not interested in the housing portfolio. It’s time for another cabinet shuffle. Just move the incompetent around Abita.

  14. Posted by Umingmak on

    Just fire the lot of them and start from scratch. The NEU does not bargain in good faith, and does absolutely nothing for their members. As a former NEU member, they did absolutely nothing for me when I had serious issues with a GN manager who refused to compensate me for overtime during a delayed flight (Arviat to Rankin to Yellowknife, got stuck in Rankin for an extra 5 hours, manager refused to pay for those 5 hours). They ignored my grievances and refused to take part in any kind of meeting.

  15. Posted by Market adjustments!! on

    Where it says “with market adjustments for positions such as trade helper, plumber and painter”, that part is interesting. Just how much is this market adjustment that those three positions are asking for? And why is it not the same market adjustment for all workers, equally? Is it mainly those three positions who are making all the noise and making “no concessions”. Something not making sense here. What percentage is the market adjustments, and why are they needed? The public wants some transparency here!!!!

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