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Government workers look to strike

Jeanne Gagnon
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 12, 2011

Close to 2,000 unionized employees of the government of Nunavut won't hit the picket lines yet as they are not in a legal strike position, but have nonetheless voted in favour of strike action.

The GN workers, members of the Nunavut Employees Union (part of the Public Service Alliance of Canada), have been without a contract since Sept. 30, 2010. Strike votes were held across the territory between September and November, with 85 per cent of the unionized employees voting in favour of striking.

For the employees to be in a legal strike position, they need three things to be in place, two of which they have, said Doug Workman, president of the Nunavut Employees Union.

They have an expired collective agreement and a strike mandate vote, but they don't have a ratified essential service agreement - which makes official that their jobs are considered essential for the safety and security of the public - so they are not in a legal strike position. Workman said they are working on getting an agreement.

"The failure of the government to move on any of our issues and the slow pace of the bargaining process were determining factors in our members' decision to give their negotiating team a strong strike mandate," he stated in a press release.

The last face-to-face bargaining sessions between both parties were held in August. Meetings with an appointed mediator are scheduled for Feb. 19 to 21.

Negotiations on a new collective agreement with the GN started one year ago but delays in appointing a negotiator have extended the bargaining process, Workman said earlier this fall. The GN is offering a four-year collective agreement with no wage increase in the first year and one per cent in each of the following years, stated the press release.

"We've asked for five per cent per year and the Northern allowance, we want it to reflect what the federal government employees get, which will be a substantial increase," he said. "We're hoping this employer understands the necessity for them to start working this way because they're way off. (Yearly increases, in percentage, of) zero, one, one and one is a disgrace."

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