Yellowknife’s gymnastics club to close after picketing plan
Yellowknife’s gymnastics club will not open on Saturday after union workers were encouraged to target it with picketing action.
The club is in an unusual position: the non-profit owns its facility, but that facility directly backs on to the municipally owned multiplex and can be accessed via the multiplex. (The club also has its own entrance, which it is currently using.)
In an email to union members seen by Cabin Radio, the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s Dawn Skinner states: “We are going to try a picket at the multiplex to see how effective it will be at shutting down the gymnastics events.”
The email, which calls for a picket outside the multiplex from 8:30am till 4:30pm on Saturday, adds in bold that the weekend picket represents an “opportunity for more strike pay.”
A parent associated with the gymnastics club, who requested anonymity for fear of union reprisals, described anger at the union expressly targeting the club, which they consider to be a third party with its own premises and no involvement in the current strike action.
“Parents are going to feel forced to cross the picket line to bring their children to gymnastics,” the parent told Cabin Radio by phone before the club decided to close for the day.
The parent said the club was still recovering from a “huge loss” suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic, during which, they said, loans and grants were required to keep the club financially viable.
Sustained picketing “could end up with the club shutting down,” the parent said.
The UNW and PSAC did not directly respond when asked to provide a rationale for Saturday’s planned picket.
Instead, union leaders said in a written statement: “A lot of non-profit groups have been impacted when the City of Yellowknife shut down their facilities.
“Residents are encouraged to send a message to the City of Yellowknife and ask them to come to the mediation table on Monday with a goal to coming to a fair deal for the members.
“Local 345 members will be picketing at the multiplex this weekend, and we request residents of Yellowknife to not cross picket lines in the meantime.”
While the multiplex is a city facility, picketing the entrance to the gymnastics club’s adjoining building would represent a separate step. Muddying the issue is the fact that the two entrances are a matter of feet apart.
Picketing the premises of a business or organization other than the employer in question is known as secondary picketing. A 2002 Supreme Court of Canada decision held that secondary picketing is ordinarily legal.
Unions ‘sorry’ over letter
Separately, the unions also responded to an allegation that a public letter issued to three city councillors was intimidatory.
Ben Hendriksen, Steve Payne and Rob Warburton are each councillors and, through their other work, UNW members.
The two unions made public a letter to the three councillors on Tuesday, warning them that crossing a picket line would be considered an offence under union regulations as “conduct prejudicial to the good order and welfare of the union.”
The unions also called for the three to remove themselves from any discussion or decisions as councillors related to the current labour dispute, given their standing with the UNW.
Responding late on Tuesday afternoon in a joint statement, the three councillors accused the union to which they belong of intimidatory tactics.
“We find it very disheartening as UNW members that the president of the UNW and PSAC North’s regional executive vice-president decided to send and publicly post what we consider to be a letter of intimidation to ourselves, without first attempting to speak with any one of us in advance,” the councillors wrote.
In return, the unions said in a statement: “We are sorry that our letter came across as intimidating. That was certainly not our intention.”
The unions continued: “We posted both letters to city councillors on our website so that our members could access it and because we believe in being open and transparent in our communications with all parties.
“Councillors who have questions about how they can carry out their duties as elected officers while respecting their workers’ picket line can reach out and talk to us at any time. The intent of our letters was to start that conversation; we are still waiting for them to respond to us directly.
“It’s upsetting for our members when the leaders they’ve elected appear to take sides when we ask them for support. We hope that city council will reach out, talk to the members on the picket line, hear their stories, and provide the balanced guidance we expect from them as leaders.”