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Talks over new GNWT collective agreement break down

The Union of Northern Workers' headquarters in Yellowknife
The Union of Northern Workers' headquarters in Yellowknife. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

The Union of Northern Workers says talks over the latest NWT government collective agreement broke off on July 7 and a mediator is set to be called in.

The last collective agreement between the two expired at the end of March. Its terms remain in effect until a new deal is reached.

An NWT government spokesperson declined to specify what is being offered by the territory to its workers, saying the GNWT “respects the bargaining process and will not comment on specific matters while negotiations are under way.”

The UNW’s demands are also unclear.

In a message posted to its website, the union’s bargaining team spoke in broad terms of a “focus on fair wages” alongside proposals that relate to the NWT’s healthcare system and reconciliation, without elaborating.



According to the UNW, negotiators “made some progress on wage improvements needed to address the impact of inflation” but not other aspects over which the parties differ.

Union leader Gayla Thunstrom stated the GNWT had “failed to present any viable ideas to enhance recruitment and retention” except seeking the ability to hire more agency workers, which the union said represented a “red line.”

Earlier this year, the GNWT and UNW were said to be restarting a decades-old working group to update the rules that govern how agency nurses are used in the territory. The current set of rules was written in 2004.

There are 662 nursing positions within the NWT and Tłı̨chǫ health authorities. In April, the GNWT said the territorial health authority “accessed agency nurses 89 times” in the 2022 calendar year.

The UNW said the two parties will now try to find a mediator they can agree upon. According to the union, the GNWT had “expressed the desire to have a tentative agreement in place before September due to upcoming territorial elections.”

“The UNW is willing to return to the table whenever the employer is ready to drop its demands for concessions and meaningfully address our key priorities,” the union’s bargaining team stated.