Union reveals entirely new 'strategic strike' plan, and pay

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The Union of Northern Workers now plans a one-day "general strike" for Monday followed by more focused "strategic strikes" from Tuesday.

The new plan, in a document circulated on Saturday afternoon, represents a significant shift in strategy – and in the pay members will receive.

It also appears to send many members back to their usual GNWT jobs from Tuesday onward.

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Saturday's document completely changes advice provided by the union's executive on Friday regarding strike pay.

On Friday, union finance director Kim Bailey told Cabin Radio in four separate phone calls that all unionized members walking out on Monday would receive 60 percent of their gross daily GNWT pay.

In full: Read the union's document

Now, the union document states, all members walking out on Monday – if mediation due to conclude on Saturday fails – will receive $117 per day. That represents the original, ordinary sum of strike pay which the union had been advertising for most of the week.

From Tuesday onward, the document states, there will be a "strategic strike" in the ridings of MLAs who opposed binding arbitration during a legislative assembly vote on Friday.

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"A strategic strike is a targeted withdrawal of work and services," the document reads. "Not everyone is off work at the same time, only some strategic groups of workers to demonstrate how their jobs are important or to make a specific point."

Members who live in those ridings and participate in the "strategic strike" will receive the 60 percent of gross pay, the union said.

That is expected to last for a maximum of two weeks under Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) rules governing strike pay. After that, either the union can request an extension of the 60 percent pay rule, or it will return to a general strike at $117 per day for those taking part.

Strike captains will provide members with lists of communities and areas to be targeted during the "strategic strike," the union said in its document. The union said affected members will be contacted and given a schedule for a strategic strike if they are needed.

Return to work for some?

The document appeared to suggest that those whose areas were unaffected by a "strategic strike" are expected to return to work as normal on Tuesday – a development which appeared to give the strike a completely different character to that the union had been advancing in recent weeks.

Rather than thousands of workers walking out at once, the document implied that from Tuesday, action would be much more focused.

The Union of Northern Workers did not respond to a request for clarification.

Some union members told Cabin Radio they did not receive the Q&A document, either at their local meeting or by email.

Others appeared confused by the sudden shift, which was outlined in some meetings of union locals but not others.

The communications process for the union appears daunting, with thousands of members now requiring daily contact from Monday to establish their involvement in strategic strikes.

In the past, the union has said it has a strong network of communication with its locals to ensure information is disseminated – but that network appeared tested on Friday and Saturday, as conflicting information emerged from different sources.

It was not clear how easy members would find it to reliably know for certain if they were a part of strategic strike action, or whether they should return to work.

Nor was it clear what would happen if attempting to cross a picket line from Tuesday onward.

For example, if the union maintains any pickets during a strategic strike, would members living in the ridings of MLAs who supported binding arbitration be able to cross the line?

The prospect raised the unlikely possibility of members being required to carry proof of address, and picket line captains needing to know their constituency boundaries.

The MLAs who voted against Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green's binding arbitration motion on Friday – which failed by 11 votes to six, with one abstention – were:

  • Glen Abernethy, Great Slave
  • Caroline Cochrane, Range Lake
  • Robert C McLeod, Inuvik Twin Lakes
  • Bob McLeod, Yellowknife South
  • Danny McNeely, Sahtu
  • Alfred Moses, Inuvik Boot Lake
  • Michael Nadli, Dehcho
  • Herb Nakimayak, Nunakput
  • Wally Schumann, Hay River South
  • Lou Sebert, Thebacha
  • Cory Vanthuyne, Yellowknife North

Tom Beaulieu, the MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, abstained from the vote. The union document specifies targeted strike action will only be taken against the ridings of MLAs who voted 'no'.

Jackson Lafferty, the house speaker, is the MLA for Monfwi –  which includes Behchokǫ̀, Gamèti, Wekweeti and Whatì.

It's not clear what will happening in his riding, as Lafferty was not called on to vote.