GNWT says bargaining with Union of Northern Workers at an impasse

Gayla Thunstrom UNW president, speaks at a local service club luncheon in 2023. (CKLB file photo)

A mediator has determined the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) and the Union of Northern Workers (UNW) have reached an impasse in their efforts to reach a new collective agreement.

This despite the GNWT’s position for its more than 5,500 employees that it offers a salary and benefits package that is among the most generous in Canada.

Mediation began December 14th and at the conclusion of the most recent session on April 20th, the mediator concluded parties are too far apart on key issues to reach an agreement at this time.

British Columbia mediator Jacquie de Aguayo requested each party submit their “best and last proposals” by May 3rd and will then issue non-binding recommendations for the parties’ consideration.

The GNWT stated it: “Remains committed to concluding a collective agreement with the UNW that is fair to employees, fiscally responsible and financially sustainable … (and) includes measures to address reconciliation, wages that address cost of living challenges and benefits that will retain and assist in the recruitment of qualified staff.”

In March, the UNW stated its key priorities include health care retention and recruitment, as well as reconciliation with Indigenous employees, which account for almost 30% of GNWT workers.

UNW president Gayla Thunstrom stated in a release: “Although members of the Legislative Assembly have over the last two years also identified both of these issues as priorities, the employer’s bargaining team has not addressed either of them in a meaningful way.”

The union stated another stumbling block was a key concession demanded by the GNWT that would open the door to contracting out all of the GNWT’s 2,100 health care workers.

The union stated that when the GNWT drops its demands for concessions, the parties will be able to move forward to an agreement.