Eleven MLAs voted against the motion that would have seen the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) accept binding arbitration pending the mediation process with Union of Northern Workers (UNW), which began today and is expected to go into the weekend.
All seven members of cabinet voted as a single block against the motion.
The motion was brought forward by MLA Julie Green who said binding arbitration allows for both the GNWT and the union to “save face without winners or losers.”
Referring to the violence of the Giant Mine labour dispute, Green said, “My point is strikes are dangerous, emotions are high.”
Kieron Testart seconded the motion.
He called binding arbitration the “only course of action that will still ensure a fair deal.”
Many MLAs noted the motion was not legally binding. R.J. Simpson saw this as an opportunity to support the motion, while others, such as Herbert Nakimayak, said it was “tripping up” the negotiation process.
To be clear, binding arbitration isn’t referenced as a course of action in the territory’s Public Service Act.
After comments from the members—and shortly before the recorded vote—Green said she was ready to be on the losing side of the motion because she believed it was what’s right.
Most of those opposed said they believed in mediator Vince Ready’s ability to find common ground between the GNWT and the union; others criticized the timing of the motion and believed it should have been introduced once a strike was inevitable rather than before heading to the negotiation table
‘Fanning the flames’
Following the defeat, Green said the GNWT never should have handed out a waiver form yesterday that allowed employees to cross the picket line in the event of a strike.
(The document in question can be seen at the end of this text).
In a release, the UNW called the action “union-breaking”.
“This is an attack on workers basic right to bargain collectively and belong to a union,” said UNW President Todd Parsons in the release.
Prior to the vote, Green asked Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod about why the document was sent out and said she believed it was “fanning the flames” of the disagreement with the union.
He replied the department was simply passing information to employees so they could make an informed decision.
“This is old-style and crass union-breaking tactics, clearly violating normal standards of decency for any government. “This is a clear attempt to bully employees into accepting a bad offer. It will not work”
Those supporting the motion were as follows:
- Julie Green (Yellowknife Centre)
- Kieron Testart (Kam Lake)
- R.J. Simpson (Hay River North)
- Frederick Blake Jr. (Mackenzie Delta)
- Kevin O’Reilly (Frame Lake)
- Shane Thompson (Nahendeh)
Those who voted against the motion were:
- Robert C. McLeod (Inuvik Twin Lakes)
- Premier Bob McLeod (Yellowknife South)
- Glen Abernethy (Great Slave)
- Caroline Cochrane (Range Lake)
- Louis Sebert (Tebacha)
- Alfred Moses (Inuvik Boot Lake)
- Wally Schumann (Hay River South)
- Michael Nadli (Deh Cho)
- Herbet Nakimayak (Nunakput)
- Daniel McNeely (Sahtu)
- Cory Vanthuyne (Yellowknife North)
MLA Tom Beaulieu (Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh) abstained.
This story was updated to reflect the comments from UNW President Todd Parsons and added the image of the document below.