About 50 members of the Union of Northern Workers (UNW) and their supporters rallied in front of the Legislative Assembly Friday afternoon. They were calling for the territorial government to offer them more money as the two sides negotiate a new collective agreement.
According to Union President Todd Parsons, the GNWT’s latest offer calls for a zero per cent increase in the first two years of the contract, a one per cent increase in the third year, followed by a 1.1 per cent increase in the fourth and final year of the contract. Parsons added the government upped its offer in the final year by .1 per cent. He said that for an average government worker making $56,000 a year, that amounts to about a dollar a week. He said that the offer is simply not enough.
“It does not keep up with the rate of inflation in Yellowknife, never mind out in the communities where the inflation rate is higher, ” Parsons said. “We’re here today to bring profile to the government so they will see the need to bring us back a fair wage offer.”
Parsons said there is no strike deadline date at this time. He added that strike votes are only about half completed at the various locals throughout the territory. He hopes to have those votes done by the end of March.
“Our members are prepared to fight. They’re not happy with the offers that are being made. It’s obvious by today. People are coming out and they want a fair deal,” Parsons said.
Parsons did acknowledge some dissension in the ranks of the UNW, expressed mostly by members on social media. He said he has no problem with that.
“It’s a democratic organization. Being that we represent thousands of members, some of our members are not happy with the communications that has been undertaken by the union. We’ve worked very hard to make improvements in that area and get the message out,” Parsons said. “It’s unfortunate that we have to beat a strike drum to get our members to come out and be active. But what we’re seeing is a large percentage of our members attending union meetings now and bringing their voice and concerns to the table. It’s more a positive than a criticism.”
Regular MLAs Kevin O’Reilly and Kieron Testart both appeared at the rally. No one from cabinet attended.
The government tends to remain tight-lipped on contracts with government workers while negotiations are ongoing.
There are no further collective bargaining sessions scheduled, according to the union.
The UNW also says the government has described its latest offer as its final offer.