GNWT tries direct approach
Sides dispute whether individual settlement is possible

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

NNSL (Jan 29/99) - One way that Herb Hunt, director of equal pay and negotiations, said the GNWT has been trying to speed up the pay-equity settlement process is through direct offers to its workers.

Hunt said Wednesday that because the GNWT and the Union of Northern Workers agreed in December to deal with pay equity separately from collective-bargaining negotiations, and because pay-equity negotiations have broken down, the matter falls under common law rule, which allows the government to negotiate directly with its unionized workers.

To this end, Hunt said the government sent out copies of a Dec. 15 information package and settlement offer, addressed to Public Service Alliance of Canada president Daryl Bean, to the approximately 5,000 current and former government employees who would be included in the settlement, according to GNWT methodology.

Hunt said the GNWT has also sent out individual settlement proposals based on the Canadian Human Rights Commission's ruling in the ongoing federal government case -- proposals that total $25 million in value.

"We strongly believe that the offer we have on the table exceeds the legal requirements in the Canadian Human Rights Act, and is comparable and compatible to the commission's guidelines," said Hunt.

In his Jan. 20 letter to Hunt, posted on the UNW Internet site, Bean labelled the latest GNWT proposal "inadequate" and wrote that any individual settlements would be treated as a "down payment" pending tribunal ruling.

Hunt said, however, that individuals do have the legal right to settle the matter once and for all. He said many workers have called in reaction to the postings and are panicking over the lack of settlement progress. He said that, ultimately, the GNWT is advising them to retain their own legal counsel if they choose to settle.