Union, Nunavut government start talks on new wage-benefit deal

NEU seeks help for government workers facing domestic violence

Members of the Nunavut Employees Union, a part of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, at a noon-hour demonstration held on Feb. 20, 2012, at the back of the Nunavut legislative building in Iqaluit. (File photo)

By Jim Bell

Focusing first on non-monetary items, the Government of Nunavut and its unionized workers have started talks aimed at a new collective agreement, the Nunavut Employees Union told its members earlier this month.

Their first bargaining session, held on Jan. 15 to Jan. 18, “was both positive and productive,” the union said in an update to members.

“Clearly these are the early days of bargaining, and we have yet to deal with many difficult issues. But we can all hope that the positive tenor of this first session continues into the coming sessions,” the union said.

The NEU, the labour organization that represents thousands of GN workers, as well as many employees of hamlets and local housing organizations, is a part of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

The last GN-NEU wage-benefit deal, reached with the help of a mediator in August 2016 and signed Nov. 23 that year, expired at the end of September 2018.

To prepare for a new deal, the union chose a bargaining team last October and worked out its proposals in December after a two-day caucus.

As is normal, the two sides are concentrating on non-monetary issues and won’t likely talk about the difficult issue of money until near the end of the bargaining process.

To that end, the first talks in January focused on three non-monetary themes:

• The vulnerable state of the GN’s part-time workers

• Food security and declining purchasing power

• The GN’s “thinly-stretched” full-time workforce

Union pitches “domestic violence leave”

And the non-monetary proposals that the union gave the GN last month also include a long list of demands aimed at helping employees who are victims of domestic violence.

They include:

• For employees facing domestic violence, up to 10 days of paid leave to attend medical appointments, legal proceedings and other related activities, in addition to existing leave entitlements.

• An agreement that no action will be taken against an employee if their performance at work suffers due to domestic violence.

• An agreement that for workers suffering domestic violence, the employer will approve reasonable requests for job redesign, reduced work-load, job transfers to other locations or departments, changes to phone numbers, and screening of calls at work to avoid harassing phone calls.

• An agreement that information on employees experiencing domestic violence will be kept confidential and kept out of their personnel files unless the employee agrees.

• Awareness training in the workplace on domestic violence.

• An agreement that the employee will identify a human resources person who will be trained in domestic violence and privacy issues and that the employer will advertise this staff member’s name.

Union seeks “women’s advocate”

Also, the union proposes the recognition of a workplace “women’s advocate” who would work with women members and give them information about women’s shelters, counsellors and the employee assistance program.

To that end, the union proposes sentences like this one be added to the collective agreement:

“The Employer and the Union recognized that employees who identify as women sometimes need to discuss with another woman matters such as violence or abuse or harassment, at home or in the workplace.”

The ideas contained in the NEU’s package of non-monetary demands are proposals only, and have not been agreed to by the employer.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Rankin Inlet, during the week of Feb. 8, the union told its members.

It’s not clear when or if the NEU’s talks with the GN will strike a new wage-benefit deal.

The two parties signed their last wage-benefit deal in late 2016, more than two years after the previous agreement had expired in 2014.

In that 2016 agreement, GN employees won wage increases of two per cent, one per cent, one per cent and two per cent in each year of a four-year contract, retroactive to October 2014.

That led to retroactive payments, distributed in instalments, to cover the difference between what workers actually got paid and what they would have been paid had the agreement been in place in 2014.

Union members at the GN can find information about the collective bargaining process by following this link.

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by Clarity on

    Although I feel bad for those facing domestic violence it is NOT the government’s responsibility to mitigate and financially support someone who has made the decision to pursue such a relationship. I see it every day and in many cases the abused individual returns…so based on this they would be covered and exempt from showing up to work? I think not…all GN employees currently get special leave to address these family related issues. Food insecurity is another one what about the high northern allowance and federal subsidies that everyone gets that’s what that is for. Gn employees are paid more than any other government worker in canada for little work and education while reaping better than average overall benefits. You make the decision to be in a relationship with an abuser that’s your choice not the Governments fault or responsibility.

    • Posted by Keep a Smile on

      To poster #2

      Be realistic for a moment. If the GN does not offer high salaries the GN will have a hard time recruiting. It’s all about supply and demand. When I was in high school that’s a principal we were tought.

      I know people that work for the GN, they work 50-60 hours a week but paid 37.5 hours, they have university degrees and had a wealth of experience before joining the GN. Don’t you think they don’t earn their salaries? When’s the last time you did a salary comparison between let’s say a GN position and the equivalent position elsewhere? I will give you a little help. A team leader working for the federal government in IT (that would be a CS3 Level) is paid from 84000$ to 104000$, the same position in the GN pays from 90000$ to 108000$. Both position requires a bachelors degree. Sorry I don’t think the difference is that big and unwarranted.

      The only ones that will find the salary to high and not deserved are the ones not doing the job… Everybody can get those jobs if the meet the education requirements, so…

  2. Posted by Abused on

    An agreement that no action will be taken against an employee if their performance at work suffers due to domestic violence.
    Is this some kind of joke. I was in an abusive relationship and I screwed up at work. I chose to stay in my situation. Employers shouldnt have to suffer if their employees refuse to leave an abusive relationship. I can see it now, you get 10 days to leave. Not yoyo back and forth. You get 10 days to leave if you go back, you dont get 10 days to leave the same person. If you keep screwing up at work, you have no business being at work.

    • Posted by Clarity on

      Exactly. Very well said this whole bargaining platform is ridiculous and laughable actually….only in Nunavut where government is required to fund personal choices. They should be focusing on government to provide mental health help

  3. Posted by GN Employee on

    Its time for us GN employees to stop thinking just about ourselves.

    NEU: We are faced with rising costs for everything from food to water bills, and everything else we buy. But so is everyone else in Nunavut. I say, do not negotiate a pay raise for us. Instead, offer the GN a pay cut averaging 10%.

    Yes, it will hurt me. But the condition of this pay cut is that the GN use the savings (and find the money match them) to raise the food portion of Social Assistance by enough that everyone on Social Assistance will be able to afford to eat 3 nutritious meals a day, every day. Let’s be part of the solution and end the hunger in Nunavut.

    Let those of us at the bottom of the pay scale take a 5% cut, those in the middle take a 10% cut and those at the top take a 20% cut.

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