The Union of Northern Workers (UNW) has tested the resolve of its members by staging a cold weather ‘practice picket’ at the North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC).
About 50 union members, mostly from the jail and Stanton Territorial Hospital, turned out in -35 degree temperatures at the entrance to the territorial government-run facility over the noon hour on Wednesday.
They are not happy with the government’s latest contract offer.
Members say thousands of union members across the territory have been working without a contract for about three years now and about 4,000 of them are in a legal strike position.
Union spokesperson Frank Walsh says the protest was held to send a strong, clear message to the government
“We’re here. We’re not going away. We like to pick these really cold days to send a message that this is important to us and we’re here to stay,” Walsh said. “There has been no negative feedback from our members. There has been no complaints about the cold.”
The union has reportedly asked for a three-per-cent annual wage increase over the life of the contract.
The government reportedly responded by proposing a one-per-cent increase in 2018 and a 1.1-per-cent increase in 2019.
Walsh says he understands that both sides will meet with a mediator next month in an effort to hammer out a deal but adds he is not aware of any actual dates set for mediation.
“I don’t know if I am confident or optimistic. I think that cooler heads will come to the table and say we’ve got to get something done here. There are a lot of people impacted by this. It’s about our jobs, our cost of living and our futures.”
This is the second practice picket by UNW workers, following one held at the Jackfish Power Plant last month.
The NWT Bureau of Statistics revealed last month that the cost of consumer goods had risen in Yellowknife by 2.5 per cent compared to a year ago.