Fort Smith's water tower in June 2021. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Town of Fort Smith workers will receive a pay increase of three percent backdated to January 1 this year, then 2.75-percent increases in 2024 and 2025.
The details form part of a collective agreement ratified by unionized Town of Fort Smith staff this week and agreed between the town and Union of Northern Workers after less than a week’s bargaining.
The deal comes as municipal workers in Yellowknife, who are represented by the same union, enter a fourth week on the picket line in a dispute over salary increases.
In its latest published proposal, the City of Yellowknife offered two-percent annual pay increases plus a lump sum to counter recent inflation. The union proposal sought 3.75-percent annual increases and other improvements to benefits.
While Fort Smith and Yellowknife don’t occupy identical economies or circumstances, statistically, the cost of living in the two communities is relatively similar. Fort Smith is ordinarily the slightly more expensive place to live.
The town’s new collective agreement for its staff will run until the end of 2025, whereas Yellowknife’s agreement under negotiation covers 2022 and 2023.
Other important changes in Fort Smith’s new deal include:
a three-percent northern allowance increase as of January 1 this year;
one extra day of special leave per year (to a total of six);
bank up to 30 days’ leave (up from 25);
bank of eight days that can be used for participation in sporting events, traditional hunting fishing, harvesting or cultural events, or religious and cultural holidays not otherwise covered;
improved language for family violence leave;
bilingual bonus of $25 an hour “when an employee is required to use an official language of the NWT other than English;” and
the addition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to the list of designated paid holidays.
“On March 1, members voted to accept the tentative agreement that was reached with the Town of Fort Smith on February 17,” the Union of Northern Workers stated.
The full new agreement is in the process of being collated and printed.