Stage is set for union negotiations
Employees go through first round with GN

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

IQALUIT (Oct 11/99) - In less than two short months, the Nunavut Employees Union is going to pull on its gloves and step into the ring with the Government of Nunavut.

The grand prize? A collective agreement for the upcoming fiscal year that meets the financial and non-monetary needs of 1,200 civil service employees, while providing a stable and affordable workforce for the GN.

Doug Workman, the president of the NEU, said that time will be a crucial factor when the parties meet on Dec. 6 to begin the first round of negotiations to replace the contract due to expire on Mar. 31.

"I would hope that it's not going to be like what happened with the GNWT where we were without a collective agreement for a year and a bit after the contract expired. It's not in anybody's best interests when that happens," said Workman.

With that in mind, he announced last week the members who would join him on the negotiating team, including Jean Hogan, Kivalliq; Wayne Podmoroff, Baffin South; Steven Leck, Baffin North; Wilma Pigalak, Kitikmeot and Greg Barton, extra. Workman said the members were elected with regional and occupational representation in mind.

He also said that Ottawa-based Ron Cochrane of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) had been chosen to act as the chief negotiator.

"I found him to be research-based. I've worked with some negotiators that have antics and they like to do the theatre thing. He seemed to understand what we need in the North and had appreciation for our isolation needs and our recruitment and retention needs and how we can address those," said Workman.

The team's goal is to come up with a Nunavut-friendly democratic contract that considers their member's priorities and takes into account the special circumstances associated with living in a costly territory devoid of highways.

Workman said that based upon what he's heard from the GN to date, he expected the agreement and the negotiations to be more conciliatory than those seen in the past.

"It's a less combative type of environment we're in and that's what I expect in negotiations."

The government's director of labour relations declined to comment on the mood that he thought would prevail during the Dec. 6 meeting because he didn't want to count his chickens before they hatched.

"It's a bit premature to make any comment on that," said Garry Pinto, adding that the GN was still in the process of assembling their own team.

However, he did say that he was optimistic and was looking forward to sitting down with Workman and the union.