A picket line outside Yellowknife City Hall. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
The City of Yellowknife says the latest reported proposal from union negotiators would cost an extra $1.65 million per year, equating that to a 4.79-percent property tax increase.
Yellowknife city councillors passed a 4.37-percent tax increase for 2023 in December last year. During the budgeting process, city staff forecast larger increases in 2024 and 2025.
The Union of Northern Workers and Public Service Alliance of Canada have called on residents to support what they say are fairer wages for city workers following a year of unusually high inflation.
The city has said it wants to use “creative options” to augment an offer of annual two-percent salary increases for unionized staff.
The unions, the CBC reported on Thursday, are seeking a five-percent increase followed by a three-percent increase, plus signing bonuses, increases to vacation travel assistance, two extra days of personal leave, and a commitment to discussing a festive shutdown similar to the GNWT’s “Donny Days,” among other requests.
Much of the salary increase would be backdated, as the two annual increases apply to 2022 and 2023.
Union representatives have refused to confirm those details, which the CBC said came from a leaked document, but have not denied any aspect of the proposal as reported.
“The city has calculated the cost of the union’s proposal and it totals an additional $1,646,345 on top of what the city has already budgeted for in 2023. This is equivalent to an additional 4.79-percent property tax increase,” the city stated by email on Friday.
The city said one of the unions’ requests – that the September 30 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation be a paid day off – was already something the city was committed to providing as a statutory holiday and was not included in its costing.
Citing the legislated requirement that NWT municipalities produce a balanced budget each year, the city said: “Spending more means the city either needs to increase revenues by raising property taxes and fees, or cutting programs and services.
“Unlike other governments that can run deficit budgets, such as the GNWT, the city cannot add additional costs for wages and benefits in our overall expenditures without an impact.”
Responding to the city’s statement, Union of Northern Workers president Gayla Thunstrom said by email: “We are very disappointed that the employer has decided to publicly publish and discuss details of internal union communications, that had been leaked to the media, on the city’s website media advisory.
“The union has stated from the beginning that our members are not looking to bargain in the media, and our bargaining team continues to focus on and prepare for the next round of mediation on Monday.”
What will appear in the city’s counter-proposal when mediated talks resume on Monday is unclear. The city said it “looks forward to returning to the bargaining table [with] its latest proposal.”