Sides move closer
GNWT, UNW suggest bargaining could resume

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 04/98) - The Union of Northern Workers and the Government of the Northwest Territories appear poised to get back to bargaining.

"Yes, we want to get back to the table," Herb Hunt, the GNWT's chief negotiator said Wednesday.

But, he added, the GNWT "still feels the need for a mediator" to provide a fresh perspective during negotiations.

Hunt said it believes a mediator is key to getting a collective agreement both sides can live with.

If the two sides fail to agree to a mediator, the GNWT will hold fast in its efforts to get the NWT Supreme Court to appoint a mediator.

The GNWT recently filed for a court-appointed mediator and the court date is September 21.

The UNW believes a mediator is no longer necessary.

In a Sept. 1 letter to the GNWT, UNW President Jackie Simpson wrote: "Your letter suggests that the best way for the parties to resume negotiations is with the assistance of a mediator. As the issues that resulted in the impasse at the end of the last round of bargaining no longer exist, the union doesn't believe the assistance of a mediator is necessary."

Thursday, Simpson said the GNWT's desire for a mediator is still a bit of "stumbling block" but the union is reviewing its position.

"We may offer to go back (to bargaining) informally with a mediator (first we will) discuss it with our legal council," she said.

"We were prepared to set aside our bad faith bargaining complaint," but the union is reviewing that move as well, she added.

The union removed its claim that the GNWT has been bargaining in bad faith and expects the GNWT to withdraw its application for a court-appointed mediator.

On the issue of bargaining for a collective agreement and grappling with the pay equity dispute simultaneously, the GNWT has not agreed to deal with the two separately.

Rather, it has said that it will not negotiate pay equity to an impasse -- that means the government will not prevent signing of a collective agreement if pay equity is the only unresolved issue.