Updated: Mediator’s report arrives, overdue, and calls for more talks
The Union of Northern Workers, in a short statement, confirmed it had received an apparently overdue and vital report from independent mediator Vince Ready.
Note: The union published a statement acknowledging receipt of the report within minutes of Cabin Radio independently publishing an article noting the report had not, until that time, been received by either party. This is an update of that article.
Ready was appointed to mediate between the Government of the Northwest Territories and union in a bid to save a three-year collective bargaining process which has veered closer and closer to a strike in recent months.
After two days of mediation ended with little progress on October 26, the union said Ready “has 14 days to report.”
That deadline, as published by the union, expired last week. On Wednesday this week, both the union and the territorial government said they had yet to receive any report from the mediator.
However, on Thursday afternoon, the union issued a short note stating the report had been received at 2:30pm that day.
According to the union, Ready recommended: “In my view, further mediation talks should be scheduled between the parties to explore terms of settlement.
“I will wait to hear from the parties and then will make arrangements for suitable dates.”
Union leader Todd Parsons said his negotiators would contact Ready to schedule new mediation dates.
Territorial government spokesperson Todd Sasaki told Cabin Radio by email: “On November 15, 2018, the GNWT received the letter from the mediator, Mr Vince Ready, confirming the views he expressed to the parties upon completion of the October 26 session.
“In the letter, Mr Ready recommends that further mediation talks should be scheduled between the parties in order to reach a settlement.
“The GNWT remains committed to reaching an agreement and is ready to resume negotiations, with or without the mediator, at any time.”
Ready for more
The apparent delay to the report is important as the two sides agreed they would share virtually no information about the current state of negotiations until the mediator’s report became available.
Even following its publication, the sides’ short statements betrayed little sign of a desire to be more forthcoming about the proposals currently on the table – possibly as a result of further mediation being planned.
However, that secrecy means workers and families must endure an even longer wait for an accurate picture of what each side is proposing.
No detailed proposal has been made public since January – a wait of almost a year – during which relations have significantly deteriorated, a strike has been threatened, and businesses have begun claiming even the prospect of a strike is impacting their ability to survive.
Neither party has explained why an agreement to hide details of negotiations is helpful to workers. The union said keeping the details from its members would “allow the mediator an opportunity to write his report,” although why public knowledge of the information would impact the mediator’s ability to do so was not made clear.
Ready’s office, contacted by phone and email, said Ready was busy working on a separate mediation process in Vancouver and so could not be immediately reached for comment.
Both sides have in the past few weeks insisted they are prepared to meet again, with or without Ready’s help, to continue negotiations.
However, when Cabin Radio subsequently asked the parties why no negotiations are happening given their apparent desire to talk, they each ignored our question.