End in sight for Hay River strikeUnion members vote to ratify latest offer from town council
Northern News Services
Monday, August 3, 2015
Municipal workers in Hay River voted to accept the latest offer from town council at lunch on Friday but the strike isn't officially over yet.
Jack Bourassa, left, and Todd Parsons stand with strikers along the highway May 7 to protest NWT Association of Communities meetings being held on the Hay River Reserve. July 31's offer ratification by town workers signals the possible end of a labour dispute that has dragged on for five months. - NNSL file photo
"The offer was overwhelmingly accepted," said Rachel Yee, who is one of the 31 town employees who have been on strike since Feb. 9 over wage increases.
"We're hoping to be able to return to work in the near future, and hopefully the transition will go smoothly, with little animosity."
Before that can happen, town council has to ratify the agreement as well. Although they did propose the latest offer - two per cent for the first two years of the contract and 1.75 per cent for the third - there is always a chance council could change their minds.
"We're looking at scheduling a special meeting Wednesday to address this, so we should know by Wednesday night," Mayor Andrew Cassidy told News/North. "Council will be reviewing the offer and then we'll go forward with the ratification vote."
A news release from the Union of Northern Workers issued on Friday after the vote called the tactics the town used as "harsh."
"This employer used every harsh tactic to break the union, even including replacement workers," stated UNW president Todd Parsons in the release.
"Our members stood up to the assault, remained strong and united, and won a fair settlement. This was their fight and the NWT labour movement is stronger as a result of their courage."
The new agreement, if ratified, will expire Dec. 31 2016 and will replace the agreement then ended Dec. 31, 2013. The pay raises associated with the new agreement will be retroactive. Originally, union members were demanding more than three per cent per year while council originally offered one per cent per year.
"It's getting us back to work, which is all we've ever wanted," said Samantha Scheper, one of the striking workers. "Now we're just waiting for council to agree."
Cassidy, however, said that even in the event that council agrees to finalize the offer, there will be a lot of work left to do.
"It's going to take a lot of effort to start repairing the relationships between management, council, and the staff, as well as get everyone up to speed on the last six months," he said.
For her part, Yee said she hoped the conclusion to the strike would come quickly so the community could get back to normal.