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Union and marine services company reach tentative deal


A union representing marine services workers in the Northwest Territories says it has reached a tentative agreement with employer ORSI, preventing strike action hinted at earlier this week

The agreement was reached following conciliation on Wednesday between the union – the Public Service Alliance of Canada, or PSAC, with its affiliate the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees – and ORSI, or Offshore Recruiting Services Inc.

Details of the agreement were first reported by the CBC.

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Lorraine Rousseau, regional executive vice-president for PSAC, told Cabin Radio she was “very happy” the tentative agreement had been reached but could not yet disclose many details. 

“A long-term collective agreement has been secured until the year 2024 with annual increases that we think will protect our members from the high cost of living in the North,” she said. The deal must now be ratified by the union’s members.

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, the union said negotiations had “reached an impasse” with ORSI over the wages being offered to employees.

While previous agreements saw annual increases of two percent, Rousseau said ORSI had offered incremental increases of one percent, 1.25 percent, and 1.5 percent each year, based on consumer price indexes in southern city centres that she said were not reflective of the North. 

ORSI is based in Newfoundland and Labrador but provides marine services to the Mackenzie River supply chain under a contract with the NWT government. Many of the employees delivering those services live in the North. 

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The NWT government took over barging services in the territory in 2016 when it purchased the assets of Northern Transportation Company Ltd – known as NTCL – for $7.5 million. At the time, the GNWT said it planned to partner with private businesses to contract out marine services.

Rousseau said while strike action was averted in this case, the union will consider ORSI’s “inaction of coming to the table with bargaining in good faith” when it negotiates the next contract in 2024. 

“It was so close to some type of job action that, next time around, we really have to remember that and be cognizant of what we’re getting into, because we were not unreasonable,” she said.

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