The territorial government and Union of Northern Workers (UNW) have confirmed Vince Ready will act as their collective bargaining mediator.
In virtually identical statements issued on Friday afternoon, both parties confirmed Ready – a veteran of various high-profile Canadian labour disputes – as their chosen third party.
The statements called Ready a “highly-regarded” mediator, bringing more than 30 years’ experience to a disagreement that sometimes feels it has lasted equally long.
The union and territory have been at odds over 4,000 government workers’ agreements for two and a half years, with year-on-year wage increases forming the biggest sticking point. The territory is proposing two years of wage freezes followed by two increases of around one percent each; the union wants three percent year-on-year wage hikes.
The territorial government says it cannot even come close to affording the union’s demands; the union says the territory should spend less money on infrastructure to make up the difference.
Mediation with Ready at the helm has been scheduled for October 25-27, raising the prospect of a bone-chilling and unpopular winter strike if it fails. Cabin Radio understands the delay is largely owing to Ready’s packed calendar as an in-demand negotiator.
‘[Insert name here] is optimistic’
“The GNWT is optimistic that a negotiated agreement can be reached with the UNW,” read a statement from David Stewart, the territory’s deputy minister of finance. Union boss Todd Parsons, in a separate statement, almost identically said: “The union is optimistic that a negotiated agreement can be reached with the GNWT.”
Stewart’s statement continued: “Mr Ready brings considerable experience in mediation, including public sector mediation, and we look forward to working with him and the UNW to reach an agreement during this period of challenging economic times.
“We also remain prepared to return to the bargaining table prior to October should the UNW wish to continue working towards a resolution.”
Parsons’ statement added: “Although the GNWT characterized the economic times as ‘challenging’, the reality is that they are have boasted about the millions of dollars of operating surpluses.
“We also remain prepared to return to the bargaining table prior to October should the GNWT wish to change their current position.”
It is not clear whether both statements adhered to mutually agreed wording, or one party simply copied the other’s phraseology.
The territory said Ready has worked to resolve more than 7,000 labour and commercial disputes across Canada, and is a member of the National Academy of Arbitrators in the United States.
Recent high-profile cases involving Ready include that of British Columbia’s teachers’ federation and the provincial government, in which one news report dubbed Ready the “miracle man” for his reputed effectiveness.
The same year, 2014, Ready served as mediator for Ikea and the union representing its workers in Richmond, BC.
Ready was a union organizer in the 1960s and 1970s prior to entering the field of mediation.