The territorial government says it has begun the process of working with the Union of Northern Workers to identify a mediator over collective bargaining.

The two sides have made minimal progress in more than two years of negotiations to establish a new collective bargaining agreement for 4,000 government workers. The primary sticking point is the issue of year-on-year salary increases, which would be minimal under the territory’s proposals to date.

In late April, the union suggested it would seek a move to mediation but neither side could confirm any steps had been taken at the time.

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Cabin Radio is now told informal moves have been made to find a mediator.

“The UNW has not served the GNWT with formal notice of mediation under the Public Service Act,” said territorial government spokesperson Todd Sasaki.

“However, the parties are discussing possible mediators and will be canvassing their availability.”

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.

Earlier this year, the union held a strike mandate vote in which it said almost 70 percent of eligible voters who cast a ballot backed strike action against the territory if necessary.

Mediation is one step that must take place before the union can legally call a strike. Others include the signing of an essential and emergency services agreement, which makes sure certain vital services are staffed in the event of a strike.

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.