Ruling a blow to GNWT
Pay equity decision could cost millions

NNSL (Feb 07/97) - A Federal Court ruling in Ottawa Wednesday pushed the government one step closer to paying out tens of millions of dollars the Union of Northern Workers says are owed GNWT employees.

The ruling is the latest turn in an eight-year battle between the government and the UNW over pay equity.

Though UNW president Jackie Simpson had yet to see a copy of the decision, and was relying on a verbal explanation, she said the court had ruled against the government's contention that the Canadian Human Rights Commission does not have jurisdiction in the Northwest Territories.

"Like everybody else, I'd like to know when the employees can expect to get what's owed to them," said Simpson.

The exact amount owed the workers is unknown, but Simpson said last year it stood at approximately $70 million. She said thousands of current and former workers stand to receive money.

"Now, almost 10 years after this started, the stumbling blocks they've put up are disappearing," said Simpson.

The human rights commission had earlier upheld a UNW complaint that the government was not in compliance with pay-equity guidelines.

Simpson said the court also threw out a government protest concerning a 1988 study that concluded pay equity was an issue that needed to be addressed in the GNWT. The government contended the study was biased because one of the people who contributed to it held a union card.

Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco raised the issue in the legislature yesterday, questioning Finance Minister John Todd. Todd said he had yet to see the ruling, and would update members next week.