The Union of Northern Workers says it will fight the NWT government’s decision to stop offering a dedicated form of paid leave to employees who have Covid-19.
For the majority of the pandemic to date, territorial government workers have been able to claim special forms of leave if they are sick with or isolating because of Covid-19. Those claims did not affect existing banked leave.
The NWT lifted all of its pandemic measures at the start of April, declaring an end to what had been a two-year-long public health emergency.
Last week, the territorial government told staff dedicated Covid-19 leave would no longer be available. Employees who are sick must instead use regular forms of leave, the territory said in an internal message, as would have been the case pre-pandemic.
In a message to members on Thursday, the union said it disagreed with the GNWT’s position and would file a grievance.
“Although the public health emergency has not been extended, the pandemic has not ended. Covid-19 is still very active and case numbers are still very high in the NWT. The employer should be protecting the health and safety of workers,” union president Gayla Thunstrom told members by email.
“Covid paid sick leave and Covid special leave, for isolation, were negotiated into the current collective agreement, and the employer cannot unilaterally take away these codes. When the collective agreement expires in March 2023, the employer can negotiate a change at that time.
“The UNW will be filing a grievance on this interpretation of the collective agreement.”
Thunstrom asked members with Covid-19 who are “forced to use your regular sick leave or special leave banks” to contact the union.
The territorial government has been approached for comment.