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Nats'ejee K'eh tables offer

Erika Sherk
Northern News Services

Hay River (Dec 04/06) - After more than a month-long labour dispute, there is movement towards a new collective agreement for the Nats'ejee K'eh treatment centre.

The employer, the Nats'ejee K'eh board of directors, has tabled a new proposal for an agreement.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Jean-Francois Des Lauriers, regional vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, was in Hay River last week to show support for the Nats'ejee K'eh employees. - Erika Sherk/NNSL photo

According to Melvin Larocque, the centre's executive director, in a press release, the offer is "nearly identical" to the agreement the employee's union has with Aven Manor, a long-term assisted living seniors' home in Yellowknife. That agreement included what Larocque referred to as a fair wage increase.

"We think that if this agreement meets the needs of the employees at Aven Manor, it should work here as well," said Larocque in the statement.

Jean-Francois Des Lauriers, the regional vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) union, was in Hay River last Wednesday to meet with the employees.

He said that their negotiating team was going over the proposal.

"I'm not giving any preliminary thoughts on it," he said. "We're going to have a good, hard look at it to see if we'll be going back to the bargaining table."

He said that Aven Manor and Nats'ejee K'eh, while both care facilities, have very different operations.

"There are no counsellors at Aven Manor," he said. "Differences in the nature of the work will have to be taken into consideration."

Des Lauriers was in Hay River to show support to the Nats'ejee K'eh employees, he said.

"They've been locked out for five weeks now," he said. "Christmas is coming. They need to hear from their union officials."

The employees are receiving strike pay of $50 a day, he said.

Also affected are the clients. Clients already at the centre when the dispute began were sent to Action North, a treatment centre in High Level. People with addictions are referred to the centre by community addictions counsellors, whether with Health and Social Services or a community group, said John Young, an intake and aftercare worker at Nats'ejee K'eh.

Clients are still being referred to the centre, said Jessie Carriere, manager of community counselling for Hay River Health and Social Services.

"We still make out applications to Nats'ejee K'eh and send them to Melvin," she said, referring to Melvin Larocque, the centre's executive director.

She wasn't sure where the next round of clients were to be sent, she said.

The labour dispute is upsetting, she said. "It's unfortunate for everybody involved, for clients who need treatment, for the management of the treatment centre, for the staff, for the community."

The root of the problem is that the staff at the centre have not had a collective agreement with their employer for 3.5 years.