The Government of the Northwest Territories says it has yet to receive a notice of mediation from the Union of Northern Workers.

The union and territory are in year three of negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement for 4,000 government workers.

The union claims almost 70 percent of eligible voting members have backed strike action if necessary, but the parties are legally required to try reaching an agreement through a third-party mediator before a strike can be called.

On Monday, the union told its members: “The UNW bargaining team is still committed to trying to work with the employer through the bargaining process, now with the assistance of a mediator.”

However, the territorial government said on Wednesday it had received no notice of mediation from the union – which is required to start the process.

Legal requirements

The Public Service Act sets out the requirements for mediation.

If one party decides it wants a mediator, the act says the other party must be told in a written notice of mediation. The second party then has seven days to respond.

Either the two sides jointly pick a mediator they both like and mediation begins, or – if they can’t find a mutually agreed mediator – the NWT Supreme Court finds one instead.

Other legal requirements that must be satisfied before the union can call a strike include the signing of an essential and emergency services agreement, which makes sure certain vital services are staffed in the event of a strike.

Cabin Radio understands some work on this agreement has been done but no signed-off document yet exists.

Once that agreement is in place, the union must wait 21 days after the appointment of a mediator and then provide the territorial government with 48 hours’ notice in writing of its intention to strike.

Both parties have insisted to the public they wish to avoid a strike.