The Union of Northern Workers (UNW) has removed the three leading members at one of its most prominent local branches.

Local 1, which represents 800 Yellowknife-based territorial government workers, is now in trusteeship – meaning it will be run indefinitely by three senior UNW officers.

In a letter released at the end of April, the UNW said Local 1’s executive had failed to meet its responsibilities under the union’s bylaws. The union says Local 1 did not hold enough meetings, did not keep accurate minutes, and was not providing sufficient financial reporting.

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“As many of our activists and local officers are volunteers, sometimes they have challenges completing the requirements of our bylaws and regulations,” UNW president Todd Parsons told the CBC. “We saw that the Local 1 was struggling.”

Only three members of Local 1’s executive were listed after a November election. They were president Brad Enge, vice-president Carol Moore, and treasurer Audrey Enge. The secretary’s position was vacant.

Facebook posts

In recent months, Local 1’s Facebook page carried at least one message at odds with elements of the union’s campaigning.

While UNW leaders held a strike mandate vote regarding their collective bargaining dispute with the territorial government, someone posting in Local 1’s name on March 26 told the local’s followers: “This is a post from a concerned member that I’m reposting. I’m sharing with the words of a fellow GNWT employee, because she summed it up so well.

“A reminder for GNWT UNW members that today and tomorrow are once again the opportunity to cast your vote against, or in favour of a strike mandate.

“A reminder that now is a time to use your voice. A majority ‘yes’ outcome means that if no agreement is reached at the table afterwards between the government and the union, that strike will happen. Contrary to what is being alluded to by the union, there is absolutely no guarantee as to how long a strike will go on for.”

Two weeks after that post was published, on April 10, the UNW’s director of finance and administration – Melissa Pohajdak – commented beneath it to say Local 1 had been placed in trusteeship. The UNW’s letter to Local 1 members advising of that move is dated April 30.

Enge, the president until UNW intervened, had earlier posted about taking significant time away from his work and volunteer duties through medical leave.

Information session

The three UNW trustees now controlling Local 1 are first vice-president Gayla Thunstrom, second vice-president Nicole Tews, and Somba K’e regional vice-president Josée-Anne Thibault.

Those trustees will remain in place until a new executive is elected or the local is dismantled into smaller branches.

An information session for Local 1 members will be held on Monday, May 14, at 5:30pm inside the North Star building on Yellowknife’s 53 Street.

Local 1’s members are territorial government workers based in Yellowknife with the exception of hospital staff, WSCC employees, and staff at the departments of health and social services, infrastructure, and justice. Members also include staff at the NWT Housing Corporation, Yellowknife Housing, and the francophone school board’s non-teaching workers.