Unions face tough times
Labour Day picnic reminder of union's contributions: Juneau

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 09/98) - There is little doubt these are tough times for the North's labour organizations, NWT Federation of Labour president Anne Juneau agrees.

For the Union of Northern Workers there's the pay equity dispute and collective bargaining, or lack of bargaining, as the GNWT and Union of Northern Workers haven't spoken in weeks -- the two sides appear poised to return to the table though.

For United Steelworkers of America Local 802 there is the strike at the Con mine.

Downsizing by governments, as well as other factors, has led to a 25 per cent drop in NWT Federation of Labour membership in just a few years, she said.

There are about 6,000 members of the NWT Federation of Labour -- or as Juneau prefers to call it the house of labour because she says it's more like a family -- compared to about 8,000 just two years ago.

As the membership declines, so too does the total membership dues. These funds are used to support an organization that acts on behalf of its members, she said.

With less financial resources, it's a big challenge to provide the same level of support and resources to members, she added.

Despite the challenges and concerns faced by labour groups, gatherings like Monday's picnic -- held every Labour Day -- serve as a strong reminder of just how significant unions and their members are in Yellowknife, she added.

While labour organizations' members were gaining ground in the workplace and promoting solidarity, they were also raising living standards, supporting social programs and paying taxes, Juneau said.

"The Labour Day picnic is a time when people get together. It's a tradition. It reinforces that no one labour group stands alone."

It is also a reminder of what can be accomplished when people work as a team, she said.

"Turnout for the picnic has been good," she said.

Juneau, an employment counsellor with Human Resources Development Canada, has been federation president since Jim Evoy passed away in July 1996. Juneau was federation vice-president at the time of Evoy's death.

Asked about her future with the federation, Juneau preferred not to disclose her plans just yet, but she did say whatever the future holds she will play a role in labour issues.

The federation will hold its elections this weekend in Yellowknife at its 12th convention.

The convention includes an impressive list of speakers, among them Buzz Hargrove, national president of the Canadian Auto Workers; national president of the United Steelworkers of America, Dick Martin; secretary/treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, Lawrence McBrearty and Yellowknifes Dene Chief Jonas Sangris.