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Economy

Union seeks feedback with only a year till bargaining resumes


The Union of Northern Workers is asking members for input into the next collective bargaining process with the NWT government. The current deal is due to expire in 2021.

Even though years of often-acrimonious negotiation culminated in a last-ditch deal through a mediator last year, that agreement arrived three years after the last GNWT collective bargaining agreement had expired.

That means, although the new agreement covers five years, it was backdated to 2016 and will come to an end next year – so the process will soon start again.

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The Union of Northern Workers (UNW) says it is already preparing for bargaining to resume with both the NWT government and NWT Power Corporation, where a separate agreement affecting a smaller number of staff expires in December this year.

Around 4,000 workers are understood to be covered by the two agreements.

In full: UNW's call for bargaining input and forms

"This time around, the UNW is adding an extra step to the beginning of the bargaining input process," the union announced on its website this month. "You can write directly to your union and identify what is important to you."

Members of the union can complete forms either online or by printable PDF to submit their views. The union stressed that the forms are not anonymous and anonymous responses would not be considered.

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The form for members working at the territorial government asks them to assign priorities on a numbered scale. Options include wages, benefits, health and safety, leave, training, and job security. There are fields for additional comments.

"Once the information has been received and compiled," the union stated on its website, "we will forward it to your Local’s bargaining committee to include in what was formerly the first step in the bargaining input process – Local meetings – where proposals will be gathered, debated, and selected to go forward to the bargaining conference.

"The election of delegates from your Local to attend the bargaining conference will also take place at these meetings."

Forms must be submitted by February 14, the union said.

A general strike involving some 2,000 NWT government and power corporation staff was called off at just 24 hours' notice last February. Mediator Vince Ready was asked to decide the agreement's terms based on both sides' proposals.

The full terms of the mediator's recommendations, which went on to become the NWT government's new collective agreement, included a five-year deal with a series of pay increases among other changes to working conditions and benefits.

When those recommendations were released, then-premier Bob McLeod said: "Hopefully, in the future, the government and union can work out something between themselves, so we don't have to have a third party decide some of our conditions."

Financial statements released last week suggest at least one current cabinet member was financially supported by the union during the last election.

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