The union representing workers for a company that provides marine services in the Northwest Territories says negotiations have “reached an impasse” and if a fair deal is not reached, strike action may take place.
Conciliation between the union representing the workers – the Public Service Alliance of Canada, with the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees – and Offshore Recruiting Services Inc, or ORSI, was scheduled for Wednesday.
The union is hoping to negotiate improved wages for employees.
ORSI, based in Newfoundland and Labrador, provides marine services to the Mackenzie River supply chain under a contract with the NWT government.
Lorraine Rousseau, regional executive vice-president for PSAC, said the majority of its employees live in the NWT and rely on wage increases to meet the North’s high cost of living.
“These workers do have income but they work very hard for it and they’re not being unreasonable in what they’re trying to negotiate,” she said. “It’s what we need to do in the North to ensure that we’re putting money back into the economy as well.”
The union claims ORSI is refusing to pay employees a fair wage and has not approached the NWT government for more money to help settle a contract.
“They have been able to consider and negotiate a better wage and allowances for living in the North before,” Rousseau said. According to PSAC, prior deals have seen wage increases of two percent per year.
A workers’ strike would affect communities that rely on marine services, Rousseau said, though the precise interruptions to services if a strike takes place are not clear.
In an email to Cabin Radio, Department of Infrastructure spokesperson Darren Campbell said the territorial government would not comment on collective bargaining between ORSI and the union.
Asked how a strike could impact NWT communities, Campbell said the government “won’t speculate on the possibility of a strike or potential future impact.” He noted, however, that fuel and freight delivery to communities by barge has been completed for 2021.
ORSI did not respond to Cabin Radio’s requests for comment.