Woodland Manor staff back at work

by Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 08/97) - An 18-day strike at Hay River's Woodland Manor seniors home ended weekend with the union and management ratifying a pension plan and improved benefit package but no pay hike.

But wages are expected to dominate the next round of talks, according to Scott Wiggs, a Union of Northern Workers negotiator and director of membership services.

"The employees are satisfied with the agreement despite no increase in wages," Wiggs said.

"However, the employer has had a wakeup call and they know the wage issue will be on the table again shortly," he said. "They now have time to deal with funding issues and they will have to be prepared to address it."

Prior to the Aug. 29 agreement, staffers had no pension plan. They now have a plan where the employer will make matching contributions.

The plan resembles the H.H. Williams Memorial Hospital plan, Wiggs said.

The union met with Hay River Community Health Board management Aug. 28 and 29.

The package includes a $700 signing bonus and a $1,000 annual Northern allowance for full-time employees (pro-rated for part-timers).

Other negotiated items include improved layoff notice, a housing allowance expanded to include part-timers, job sharing at staff request and an improved winter bonus-days schedule.

A memorandum of agreement charging the workplace health and safety committee to investigate and report findings and recommendations for improving the help-call system, was also part of the deal.

This collective agreement -- the union had been without one since March 1996 -- expires March 31, 1998, and in January, the union will serve notice it wants to begin a new round of bargaining.

Employees returned to work Aug. 30 and at 1 p.m. they went to the hospital and brought the manor's 16 residents home.