The Union of Northern Workers has told the City of Yellowknife to “reconsider its position” on the use of contract workers, threatening that it may otherwise escalate the matter “to the next level.”
The message came as the City and union work on a new collective bargaining agreement. The old one expired at the end of 2018.
The union, known as the UNW, says a major sticking point is the City’s position on the use of some contract workers.
City officials say a potential plan to contract out some work is being discussed in accordance with the provisions of the old collective agreement, and is only one option being considered.
“In the midst of … negotiations, the employer informed the UNW that it intended to contract out work currently performed by members at the solid waste facility,” the union alleged in a news release on Thursday.
“At a membership meeting held October 2, there was overwhelming support for the bargaining team,” the union wrote. “Members said that the language in the collective agreement regarding the practice of contracting out must be strengthened and now is the time.”
Todd Parsons, leader of the union, said the City was not acting in good faith by, in his opinion, “informing the UNW of [its] intentions midway through the collective bargaining process.”
The union urged the City to “be willing to resolve this matter amicably through the collective bargaining process, so the members do not have to take it to the next level.”
Thursday’s news release did not specify what that level might be.
Asked for a response by Cabin Radio, the City of Yellowknife said it had “not contracted out functions at the solid waste facility at this time.”
According to the City, managers raised the issue of contracting out “specific functions” to let staff focus on implementing Yellowknife’s longer-term strategic waste management plan.
The City said it asked the union about this plan to comply with the existing collective agreement, said the option was only “under consideration,” and stressed that “no reduction in staff at the solid waste facility is being considered by the City as part of this potential option.”
Bargaining continues on Monday, following meetings in May and June. The union said negotiations were taking “longer than usual,” a comment to which the City did not respond.
“We look forward to a constructive round of bargaining with the goal of reaching a renewed collective agreement,” the City wrote.
Territorial pass or fail
At the territorial level, the union now waits to see who will form the cabinet that presides over the next collective bargaining process.
The NWT government’s collective bargaining agreement is now less than 18 months away from expiry, despite taking more than three years to negotiate and being signed less than six months ago.
The five-year deal had to be backdated to 2016 as negotiations between the two sides had dragged on so long.
During a weekend of extraordinary upheaval in February, around 2,000 territorial government staff came within 24 hours of walking out. Ultimately, a mediator delivered binding recommendations for an agreement which expires on March 31, 2021.
In the lead-up to this week’s NWT election, union advertising appeared prominently in NNSL’s newspapers.
Four of the 19 MLAs-elect – Kevin O’Reilly, Caitlin Cleveland, Shane Thompson, and Julie Green – received a “pass” from the UNW, awarded if candidates gave “yes” answers to five yes/no questions posed by the union.
The other 15 successful candidates were all given a “fail” by the union but elected nonetheless.
All four of the MLAs-elect to have so far publicly put their name forward for premier – Caroline Cochrane, Jackson Lafferty, Frieda Martselos, and RJ Simpson – were given the lowest-possible “fail” by the union, meaning they “did not provide a scorable response” in the union’s words.