Mayor says sides are ‘closer than you think’ to agreement

Yellowknife’s mayor says the City of Yellowknife and unions are “closer than everybody thinks” to a deal that would end the current municipal strike and lockout.

Speaking three weeks after picketing at city facilities began, Rebecca Alty said she hoped everyone involved could come back to the table and reach an agreement.

Alty also responded to the unions’ assertion earlier this week that Reilly Hinchey, president of the local that represents most municipal staff, had been told she could not present to councillors at a Monday public meeting.


The mayor said allowing that presentation to go ahead would not be appropriate under a bylaw that governs council procedures.

“Anything dealing with a personnel matter, we don’t allow those to come to council,” said Alty.

The city, by email, quoted section 52 of the council procedures bylaw: “The Mayor and City Manager together may deny a request if the subject matter pertains to legal matters, personnel matters, matters already heard before Council, matters considered during Private Meetings in accordance with the CTV Act or matters not within the jurisdiction of Council.”

While the bylaw states only that the mayor and city manager can choose to deny such a request – not that they must be denied – Alty said: “The process for bargaining is through the negotiating table and not through council meetings.

“That’s where the deal is going to get wordsmithed and done. We’re closer than I think everybody thinks.”


The Public Service Alliance of Canada and Union of Northern Workers have sought to portray Yellowknife’s mayor and council as shirking accountability during the labour dispute, refusing to hear presentations in public and declining an invitation to meet in private.

They have also questioned when council will visit the picket line and talk to workers, though when city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett went to the picket line with coffee and donuts for picketers in February, a national union leader said that showed “absolutely no respect for those employees.”

Alty on Tuesday said she and councillors were “sharing the information” as best they could, and stressed that city council, as the head of the municipality, would always share the views expressed by the city itself through press releases.

“If I think that the press release is clear then I just share that,” she said, asked if council could be more vocal in its own right. “If I think I need to add more, then I include comment on it.”


The mayor said city council is “very involved” in the ongoing dispute and continues to set the mandate under which the city’s bargaining team operates. At the moment, the city’s public offer remains two-percent annual salary increases with a one-time payment to offset recent inflation. The unions are seeking 3.75-percent increases plus some other amendments to benefits.

“I think we’re closer than it appears,” Alty reiterated.

“That’s why I really hope that both sides can come back to the table this week and negotiate a deal. And binding arbitration is still on the table.”