Union says hands tied
Collective bargaining breaks down over pay equity in a new contract
NNSL (May 13/98) - Both sides are more entrenched than ever.
Collective bargaining between the Union of Northern Workers and the Government of the Northwest Territories broke off Friday. The GNWT has included pay-equity provision in its final offer, but the union argues it is a separate issue.
Prior to the collapse of negotiations, the union proposed a three-member panel to decide if the controversial Hay job-evaluation system the GNWT is using for its pay-equity plan is unbiased.
The panel would include union and GNWT nominees, as well as a third party agreed to by both sides. Its decision would be binding.
But Finance Minister John Todd (left) called the idea just another attempt to get pay equity off the table.
On including pay equity with bargaining, chief union spokesperson Anh-Tuan Truong said the GNWT demand requires the union to relinquish rights provided to its membership under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The union said talks failed after the GNWT demanded the union agreed to a pay-equity settlement.
"The government's spokesperson made it quite clear to us that his hands had been tied by the politicians," UNW president Jackie Simpson said.
Simpson also said that as soon as the GNWT removes pay equity from the bargaining table, talks can resume.
Todd wants the UNW to present the final offer to members for a vote.
Todd also said the GNWT will not sign an agreement that renews rates of pay that are discriminatory -- an agreement without a pay equity component.
Such a deal would give the union the chance to sue the GNWT for money because of the pay-equity issue, he said.
"We feel what we've offered is fair. How come the union does not want its membership to vote?" Todd said.
Simpson said the union's lawyers are investigating whether or not they can take the government's offer to a membership vote.
She said that pay equity is not a raise, it is a bill, or money owed to employees.
Todd is also critical of the UNW's parent union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, saying it is hindering the two sides from reaching a "Northern" agreement.
Todd said pay equity is worth billions of dollars in Southern Canada and PSAC has its own agenda.
The pay-equity issue dates back to 1989, when PSAC filed a complaint on behalf of the UNW, claiming government employees were not getting equal pay for equal work.
The GNWT is offering a $40-million pay equity settlement. The union pegs pay equity at $70 million plus interest.