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Support for treatment employees

Erika Sherk
Northern News Services

Hay River Reserve (Nov 20/06) - Dennis Bevington, Western Arctic MP, braved the snow and wind to show support to picketing Nats'ejee K'eh employees on Wednesday.

Bevington met with the employees across from the Nats'ejee K'eh treatment centre, on the main access road into the K'atlodeeche Reserve.

"I came out to show support for the workers," he said.

Twenty-two employees at the centre have not been working since Oct. 23. They had filed a strike vote but the employer had closed the doors before the 72 hours' notice for a strike were up.

They want to get back to work, said Bevington, "so let's get this thing moving."

Angela Jones, a mental health addictions counsellor at the clinic, was at the roadside.

"It's been very stressful," she said, of nearly a month away from work. "When are they going to get to the table? What's going to happen here?" Bottom line, she said, "I want to get back to work."

Aboriginal cultural helper David Poitras thanked Bevington for his show of support. "We really appreciate you coming out here," he said.

The employer, the Nats'ejee K'eh board, has submitted a proposal for a new collective agreement. The last agreement expired in 2003.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) union, which represents the workers, said the employer's proposal was disappointing.

PSAC has submitted a counter-proposal.

"Hopefully we'll get back to the table in the near future," said regional representative Fraser Hiscock.

Thebacha MLA Michael Miltenberger was also present. He was in town for the NWT Metis Annual General Assembly and had come to see the employees with Bevington, as they were travelling together, he said.

"It would be nice to see this thing settled," he said. "Everybody wants to get back to work."

Bevington, who was blasted by Premier Joe Handley last May for supporting employees in the Ekati mine strike, said he was not taking sides, merely supporting constituents.

"I'm not here to stand judgment on the issue," said Bevington.

"I'm here to support the process and getting it going."

He had not had the opportunity to meet with the employer, he said.