The Union of Northern Workers escalated its strike threats to multiple fronts on Thursday as it published the results of a strike vote held among Northwest Territories Power Corporation workers.
The union says 91 percent of those voting elected to provide its bargaining team with a strike mandate – essentially giving negotiators the green light to threaten a strike.
The vote took place in Yellowknife, Hay River, and Inuvik in October and November last year.
Publishing the results this week appeared a strategic move to increase pressure on both the power corporation and the territorial government. Each employer has been without a collective agreement for several years as negotiations have dragged on, and the UNW is also organizing a strike vote for GNWT members.
Todd Parsons, the UNW president, said the power corporation's offer – virtually identical to the territorial government's position, with salary increases ranging between zero and one percent over four years – was "not acceptable." Parsons wants a 3.5 percent increase in year one, then three percent increases over the next two years.
The vote, the union said in a statement, showed power corporation workers are "committed to fighting for better wage increases, improvement to the location allowance to better address actual northern living expenses, and job security protection."
As is the case with the territorial government, the union has not yet taken the necessary legal steps with the power corporation to open the way for a strike. "We are in fact trying to avoid a strike," said Parsons, "and remain optimistic that the employer will come back to the table, and provide a fair and reasonable offer."
Negotiations for a new power corporation collective agreement began in October 2015. NTPC has not commented publicly since, adhering to a confidentiality pact between the two parties. The UNW broke off that agreement in October 2017, publishing a news release accusing the power corporation of "taking its marching orders from the GNWT."