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Union’s own workers seek mediation over wages and inflation

The Union of Northern Workers' headquarters in Yellowknife
The Union of Northern Workers' headquarters in Yellowknife. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

Employees at the Union of Northern Workers have asked for a third party to intervene as they say the union is not offering high-enough annual wage increases.

The United Steelworkers union represents UNW workers as, in this instance, the UNW is the employer. United Steelworkers has said the UNW is not offering wage increases that keep pace with inflation.

That argument closely matches the reason the UNW and its parent, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, gave for initiating strike action among City of Yellowknife workers earlier this month.

PSAC and the UNW say the city’s offer of two-percent annual salary increases does not represent “a fair deal.” The unions are instead seeking increases over two years of five percent followed by three percent for municipal workers.



Strike action at the city began on February 8.

NNSL first reported United Steelworkers’ request for conciliation with the Union of Northern Workers. What the UNW is offering its staff and what United Steelworkers is seeking are not known.

In tweets last week that appear to have since been deleted, United Steelworkers District 3 – which includes Local 1-207, representing UNW staff – said it had “filed for conciliation after reaching an impasse with the Union of Northern Workers.”

“The bargaining team has been in negotiations with the employer and has hit a wall concerning wages,” USW District 3 tweeted.



A second tweet quoting Robert Gosse, a USW staff representative, stated: “With the high costs of living in the Northwest Territories, the proposed wages from the employer simply fail to keep up with inflation. The proposed wages make it difficult for our members to afford the basic necessities.”

United Steelworkers has been approached for comment.

Gayla Thunstrom, the UNW’s president, declined an interview request but said in a written statement: “We sincerely have a lot of respect for our employees and the hard work they do every single day. We don’t want to do anything that could potentially affect our good relationship with our employees by discussing this outside of negotiations.”

Separately on Wednesday, the Canadian Press reported that a judge will make minor amendments to an order regarding picketing by unionized municipal workers outside city facilities. City and union lawyers had earlier failed to finalize an agreement over how picketing should work.

The dispute over picketing rules will now continue to a further hearing on March 2 unless the parties reach an agreement in the meantime.

The City of Yellowknife originally sought an injunction limiting the disruption picketers could cause and the number of picketers on each line at any one time. A resulting court order has since been amended multiple times.