Editorial page

Monday, January 18, 1999

Collective bargaining works

When the GNWT withdrew their long-standing stipulation that a pay equity settlement be part of any contract signed with the Union of Northern Workers, the logjam broke.

The union bargaining committee voted to accept the proposal.

In the next few weeks the workers themselves will finally be able to vote on the contract proposal.

This has been a long process. Both sides are to be commended for sticking to the bargaining process.

At times the discussions were infused with suggestions of bad-faith bargaining, but in the end, with the help of a mediator, the impasse was overcome.

The membership of the union should look long and hard at this offer.

With the coming of division and the impending dissolution of the legislative assembly, this may well be the last time all the major players in this protracted contract dispute are in the same bargaining room.

If this offer isn't accepted, the union may find itself back at square one in the spring, and the whole process will start over again.

After such a tough and drawn out series of negotiations, you have to wonder how much more there is for either side to give.

The pay equity issue is now off own its own track, and, in fact, that case will be discussed this week before a Human Rights tribunal in Ottawa. All the parties involved will be there.

While this labour dispute cannot be blamed for the uncertainty that has loomed over government employees regarding division, it will certainly make the transition easier if there is a contract in place.

Both sides bargained hard. Both sides moved towards the middle. That's what negotiations are all about. There's a proposal out there that satisfies both the union and the GNWT bargaining teams. What could possibly be left to do but settle, and settle now?

Dangerours lessons

Seven people dead from exposure to winter and alcohol in the past two years is a frightening statistic of preventable death.

The story in last week's News/North on David Anaija, the latest statistic, told us of a man who made a mistake. He had a loving family, was respected in the community, was a typical Northerner.

Drinking and driving used to be acceptable, now it is a serious crime.

Anaija's death is one more lesson that cold weather and alcohol is equally deadly. No one should hesitate to stop their friends and family from doing it. Call the police if they have to.

We can't afford to lose people like David Anaija.

A helping hand

Once again Canadians prove their generosity knows no bounds.

We hear someone's in trouble and next thing you know, help is on the way. The latest effort is the Inuit Express to Arctic Russia. Hundreds of Inuit, Chukchi and Yupik people in the isolated Chukotka region of northwest Russia are experiencing a particularly tough winter, so we Canadians, through the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, pulled together and sent $500,000 worth of food and other supplies.

With a little luck it will be enough to help the Arctic Russians get through the rest of the winter.

If it's not, then we will undoubtedly be there to help out again.

Starship ethics

Community volunteers like Iqaluit's Stephen Lowe should be applauded for their efforts and, yes, for their originality.

Also an avid fan of all things Star Trek, Lowe formed a group of other like-minded individuals to volunteer at various community events around town dressed in Star Trek garb. And make no mistake -- the fledgling group constantly promoted the sacred Star Trek tenets of equality, education and the elimination of poverty.

Nunavut could certainly use more people like Lowe and his cronies. If we all banded together and helped each other out, the value systems that are an integral part of Star Trek society might not be light years away.

Life is worth living
Editorial Comment
Glen Korstrum
Inuvik Drum

Like most people, there have been times in my life when dreams and goals seemed hopelessly unattainable.

The bleakest period was probably after a serious relationship I'd grown comfortable in had ended and I was enduring student loans from heading back to school after realizing an arts degree had not been enough to secure a job.

I remember lying on my bed feeling deep bonds with close friends had loosened thanks to transiency and some neglect.

Time healed that.

Though the future seemed uncertain, I never attempted suicide, thankfully. It would have been a mistake.

I learned I could count on friends. Opening up meant I learned some of the private stresses other friends were dealing with.

There is usually something in everybody's life that could cause anxiety. Knowing you are not alone provides strength, helps you believe in yourself and ends with you accomplishing whatever you set out to do.

New goals and new challenges come from unexpected obstacles.

A 15-year-old committed suicide last week.

This has happened before, both here and elsewhere, but it deserves reflection and consideration that some other people in our community may feel uncertain whether it is worth it to soldier on.

Showing love may be hard for some people who are either busy with work or distracted by recreation.

Sometimes people do not open up because they fear rejection.

But love that fosters independence and faith makes the whole community stronger -- and it may also save lives.

Taxi loophole needs closing

Council was right, or at least consistent, when they rejected Unal Duran's taxi permit application because their own bylaw tied their hands.

As for whether the bylaw, which is currently under review, is justified is another matter.

One loophole needs closing to help get the number of cabs on the streets down to the arbitrary 20 that council decided and that many drivers want. That loophole is allowing people to renew vehicle permits regardless of whether they live in Inuvik.

Owners sometimes fly up to renew the permit and then fly south again. This does no justice to drivers here.

Freezing permits adds job security to those who have staked their lives driving a cab here. Those drivers are part of this community and deserve some sense of stability.

Conversely, the supply-and-demand argument is that the market itself will set the number based on what is viable.

If a driver can't make a living when 30-odd cabs are on the streets, then drivers will leave to make a living elsewhere until the number of cabs falls to the maximum that the market will bear.

That could mean rotation, but drivers who give good service will always maintain a clientele.

Just the circumstances
Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

Right and wrong. Black and white. Good guy, bad guy.

It's easier to ascribe labels with some contentious issues than it is with others. A controversial matter in this week's Drum is one of the more difficult issues in which to draw the line.

The issue at hand isn't dealt with directly elsewhere in these pages. I'm bringing it up here because it's been something in the back of my mind since completing the assignment. I'm referring to this week's photo spread. The topic, at first blush, is simply that of the new youth drop-in centre opening in Fort Simpson. The teenagers and pre-teens pictured are having a good time. Nobody has any real complaints in the story. So where's the controversy, you ask?

Well, for those who remember the Dec. 10 issue of the Drum, there was a story entitled "Arcade furor... youth centre threatens business, says owner." The article focused on Keybrand arcade owner Keyna Norwegian's argument at village council that local youth surely won't pay to play at her establishment when they can go to the youth drop-in centre for free.

It's hard to argue with that. While speaking to one of the teenagers at the drop-in centre, I asked where she would be otherwise and she said at the arcade.

Certainly, the youth drop-in centre has novelty on its side. It just opened in late December. The arcade, which I did a story on after arriving in July, has been there since the summer.

The youth drop-in centre had been in the works for more than two years now. One councillor contended that arcades have come and gone in the community and a permanent facility was needed for them. Its opening wasn't intended to do any damage to Norwegian's business, he added.

The toughest part for Norwegian will be this initial month while teens are getting a feel for the activities and the environment that the drop-in centre has to offer, as compared to the arcade. As recreation director Scott McAdam pointed out, there are two staff members providing constant supervision at the drop-in centre and some youth won't care for the unwanted attention.

As well, the drop-in centre splits the evening in half so the younger adolescents are welcomed early and older teens are invited to spend later hours. That will always leave some youth heading for the arcade.

Will that be sufficient to keep Norwegian's venture above water? I don't know.

"It's tough to have a business in this town and make ends meet," she told council in December.

There's an article on page 3 about the new Deh Cho Business Development Centre which is encouraging small businesses like Norwegian's. She's offering employment and paying taxes -- that contributes to the local economy. From a business owner's standpoint, Norwegian's reasoning is completely valid.

On the other hand, from a parent's point of view, how can you argue against another facility designed to keep teenagers happily occupied and off the street?

There really doesn't seem to be any good guys or bad guys, just two parties with opposing points of view. Hopefully, kids will be able to take advantage of both facilities as the two find a way to co-exist.