Time to talk
Union wants to get the bargaining going

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 10/00) - The Union of Northern Workers started off the new year by telling the government to get serious about negotiating a new contract.

The union's current two-year collective agreement, which covers about 2,700 members, expires March 31. The two sides will likely get down to contract talks within the next two months.

"Let's get down to business," Union of Northern Workers president Georgina Rolt-Kaiser said Wednesday, adding that the union is approaching the pending round of bargaining with optimism.

"I don't see it as a contentious issue." Last time around, pay equity was a big sticking point in the contract talks.

Government wanted to include pay equity in the collective agreement. The union opposed such a move. The two matters were negotiated separately.

The pending talks will occur as the GNWT grapples with a potential $60- million deficit.

But, said Rolt-Kaiser, the union did not create the projected deficit.

"The union's bargaining team is well aware of the challenges ahead and they are ready to sit down and address the matters at hand."

As well as a collective agreement, the two sides will have to hammer out an essential services agreement.

The agreement, required under the Public Service Act, identifies members who would be required to work in the event of a work disruption.

Under the terms of the Public Service Act, either side can trigger the bargaining process by filing a notice to bargain.

As well as Rolt-Kaiser, the union's bargaining team includes Michael Miller, a negotiator with the Public Service Alliance of Canada's Vancouver office, and union members Grant Paziuk, Dolly Ablitt, Maureen Johnston, Dave Kaufman, Josie Gould and Michael Whiteside.

"We were expecting the notice because the collective agreement does expire March 31," Sylvia Haener, director of labour relations and compensation with the GNWT's Financial Management Board Secretariat, said.

Government will soon appoint a chief negotiator. The position will likely be contracted out, Haener said.

The current deal gave union members a pay hike of two per cent in 1998-99 as well as increases in Northern allowances.