Power corporation workers in the Northwest Territories are set to strike from Monday after the Union of Northern Workers served its second strike notice in two days.
The move, a widely anticipated attempt to coordinate strike action among bargaining units, was announced in a news release on Wednesday afternoon.
Unusually, the strike notice – for job action beginning on February 11 – means power corporation workers will walk out before two days of mediation with their employer, which had been scheduled for February 12 and 13.
On Tuesday this week, the union served strike notice on behalf of around 4,000 territorial government workers.
In each instance, the disputes centre on year-on-year salary increases and also involve job security and the use of relief workers, among other concerns.
However, an attempt to take a third bargaining unit out on strike appears to have failed.
The union held a strike vote for members at the Hay River Health and Social Services Association late last month.
A document appearing to have been produced by the union earlier this week, and shared with Cabin Radio, tells health authority workers: “We did not receive sufficient support to pursue a strike mandate that would allow Local 21 [the health authority’s union local] to keep pace with our bargaining units at the Government of the Northwest Territories and Northwest Territories Power Corp.”
Backing for a strike among Hay River employees had been uncertain following the recent removal by the union of the health authority’s entire elected bargaining team.
The three ejected bargaining team members warned in a statement last month that they believed the union had “a predetermined agenda” to ensure all three bargaining units walked out at the same time.
‘New offer’ in the works
In declaring strike notice had been served to the NWT Power Corporation, the union said there had been “four long years of negotiations and repeated attempts at finding a compromise, but … little progress.”
The UNW said it was “continuing to put together a new comprehensive offer for mediation talks next week in a last-ditch effort to settle this dispute at the negotiating table and avoid a strike,” but did not explain how that would happen if the strike commenced before mediation.
The union again asked the territory to participate in binding arbitration to settle all outstanding disputes – an offer the territorial government has so far declined, stating it wishes to follow the process outlined in the Public Service Act, which calls not for arbitration but mediation.
Mediation is non-binding guidance from a third party, while arbitration binds the two sides to whatever terms an independent arbitrator decides are suitable.
“We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to avoid a strike,” the union claimed.
The union, which is currently lacking a communications officer, did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Cabin Radio on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, for four years, our efforts to find a compromise have sadly been met with stubbornness and heel-dragging by the NWT Power Corporation and the government,” said Todd Parsons, the union leader, in the news release.
“We urge the premier and the power corporation to stop their current course of action and join with us in accepting the fair process of binding arbitration and avoid an unnecessary strike.”