A screengrab shows a chart from a GNWT presentation on its pay offer to union members in January 2019.
The territorial government published details of its proposed pay offer to unionized staff on Monday, saying the deal would see an average wage increase of 9.2 percent over five years.
Directly contradicting the Union of Northern Workers (UNW), the territory said the average pay increase would beat a forecast inflation rate of 8.6 percent over the same five-year period.
Union boss Todd Parsons said in October his members were not being offered “wage increases that keep pace with inflation,” calling the GNWT’s offer “outrageous and insulting and completely disrespectful.”
In a document released on Monday, the territorial government set out its pay offer and sought to explain the rationale behind it.
Detailed information about the pay and conditions being negotiated has been scarce for the past year. The union and territory are now into their fourth year of negotiations over a proposed five-year deal.
Two days of talks with an independent mediator, Vince Ready, failed to resolve their differences in October. Two more days of mediation are proposed in early February.
What does the GNWT say staff will get?
“The GNWT believes the offer proposed at mediation is fair given our financial context. It builds on our overall compensation and benefits package provided to UNW members,” read the document published on Monday.
The document stated GNWT staff will, under the agreement’s terms, receive:
an average annual salary, plus northern allowance, of more than $96,000;
an average of 42 days’ paid leave;
“extensive provisions” for special leave and sick leave; and
a pension plan “generally viewed as one of the best in the country,” in the GNWT’s words.
The territory added its latest offer to the UNW included “adjustments … to address issues around relief employees, lay‐offs, mental health, extending parental leave, and adding leave for survivors of domestic violence.”
The document continued: “The proposed collective agreement would result in approximately $22,000 in total increased pay, on average, over the length of the collective agreement.
“For any individual employee that amount would vary based on their pay level and step and this excludes any pay increase that would come from obtaining a promotion during the five-year period.”
How the GNWT gets to 9.2 percent
Monday’s publication marks the first time the territorial government has sought to clarify how its workers receive pay increases.
There are two types of pay increase at the GNWT: a step increase, and an economic increase.
Each employee who is not already earning the maximum salary for their position “typically receives a step increase which increases their pay by 2.6 percent annually,” the territorial government stated.
On top of that, the economic increase – which is where the union and territory are at odds – “provides overall increases in the pay grids.”
An employee’s annual salary increase is worked out by adding together their step increase and any economic increase.
“It is misleading to suggest that the economic increases reflect total pay increases for GNWT employees,” the territorial government said in the document.
The territory is proposing the following economic increases, the document said:
April 1, 2016: 0 percent
April 1, 2017: 0 percent
April 1, 2018: 1.4 percent
April 1, 2019: 1.4 percent
April 1, 2020: 1.7 percent
Some of those dates are in the past as the two parties are still negotiating a collective agreement which should have come into force in 2016.
The territory argues that for almost all employees except those already at the top of their current position’s pay scale, an extra 2.6 percent annual step increase would be added – meaning an average pay increase per employee of 9.2 percent over the five-year agreement.
The union’s last stated position was that it wanted the territory to provide economic increases of 3 percent each year, on top of the step increase.
The NWT’s politicians do not get a step increase, the document said.
“Following the two years of no increases, MLAs received a 1.6 percent increase for 2017-18 as described in the legislation,” said the territory. “During this period, bargaining unit employees continued to receive the 2.6 percent annual step increases unless they were already receiving the maximum pay for their position.
“However, even just based on economic increases, bargaining unit employee pay raises have exceeded the increases for MLAs.”
The territory concluded: “We understand that everyone would like to receive pay increases as large as possible, but we do not believe people want to see the government abandon other investments or undertake further reductions in current programs and services to achieve those increases.”
Cabin Radio has approached the Union of Northern Workers for comment.
Mediation dates are scheduled for February 8 and 9. The union is also working on separate collective agreements with the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority and the NWT Power Corporation, both of which are due for more mediation sessions in the same week.