Hay River's health centre. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
Strike votes are being held at Hay River’s health and social services authority.
A strike vote meeting was held in the town on Tuesday, with another to follow on July 11, ahead of a possible walkout involving some 240 members of the health authority’s bargaining unit.
The current collective agreement for the health authority expired in March 2021. Negotiations toward a new deal began in the spring of 2022, but no agreement has been reached and conciliation earlier this month failed.
The offer on the table and the Union of Northern Workers’ demands for its members have not been made public. The health authority did not respond to a request for comment.
Gayla Thunstrom, the UNW’s president, said by email to Cabin Radio that Hay River health workers needed to have salaries and benefits that were “highly competitive” with other jurisdictions and the NWT health authority (which is a separate entity covering most of the rest of the territory).
The offer to Hay River staff needed to be “not just comparable” with other areas, and certainly not less than what is available elsewhere, Thunstrom wrote.
“Many residents of Hay River – including our members – are struggling right now,” she continued.
“The last thing they need is more reductions in services because the HRHSSA refuses to offer its employees a fair deal that will improve morale, attract new workers, and retain the current employees who have worked hard to provide healthcare throughout three very difficult years of floods, fires, and a pandemic.”
If the strike vote passes, that doesn’t mean a strike automatically takes place – but does authorize the union to call a strike if there is no further breakthrough with the employer.
The town is already struggling to offer a normal level of healthcare.
From Friday onward, the health authority said in a news release, there will be “periods of time when a physician will not be present in the community.” The number of inpatient beds will be reduced.