The City of Yellowknife and unions representing its workers will hold new talks early next week with the possibility of strike action if no deal is reached.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada, or PSAC, and its component the Union of Northern Workers say they are seeking salary increases of up to seven percent annually for unionized city staff.
The city is offering unionized workers a two-percent salary increase backdated to the start of 2022 and another two-percent increase in 2023. The unions say that offer is below inflation and amounts to a real-world reduction in pay.
An appointed mediator contacted both the city and the unions last week to arrange a further meeting between the parties.
“Mediation will start early next week,” said Lorraine Rousseau, PSAC North’s regional executive vice president. “Our greatest hope is that the city will come to the table with that fair deal that we’re looking for.”
Rousseau said strike action on February 8 is highly likely if no deal is reached before then, though she said a final decision on any strike date would rest with the unions’ bargaining team.
The city and unions exchanged letters earlier this week.
The unions reiterated their complaint that city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett had engaged in an “extremely inappropriate email campaign” ahead of last month’s strike vote. Bassi-Kellett, in multiple emails to staff, set out what she said would be some of the consequences of strike action.
Writing to Yellowknife’s mayor and council, the unions said: “Tell your representatives to return to negotiations with a new mandate and a mind to good-faith bargaining. Direct your bargaining team to present an offer that will improve recruitment and retention, that will allow your workers to keep up to the rising cost of living, and that will show City of Yellowknife employees that they are valued and respected.”
In response, Mayor Rebecca Alty wrote: “As demonstrated by our proposal on January 30, 2023 to resume negotiations, the city remains committed to the bargaining process and the negotiation of a collective agreement.
“The city will continue to respect the negotiating table as the place where negotiations towards an agreement occur.”
In a separate statement, the city said it “remains fully committed to the bargaining process and negotiation of a collective agreement while also preparing for next steps, including the possibility that the PSAC may exercise its right to strike.”