Bargaining break in Baker
Union, hamlet to meet again in August

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Baker Lake ( Jun 07/00) - Contract talks between the hamlet of Baker Lake and its Northern Employees Union workers have been put off until August.

The two sides had met for two days this past month. The Baker workers have been without a contract since March 30.

Under contract language, the old collective agreement remains in place until a new deal is ratified, with any gains being retroactive.

The Kivalliq Region is the longest-standing bastion of unionized municipal workers in the North.

It is also the only region in both Nunavut and the NWT where all hamlet and housing association workers are union members.

Baker workers are the first in the region to enter into negotiations since the beginning of the government's new fiscal year.

Dave Webster represented the hamlet at the first round of recent bargaining talks.

He says contract talks were put off until August because they simply ran out of time at the bargaining session.

"They didn't break down or end on a bad note," says Webster.

"Everything was going well. We just need more time to discuss the wage issue."

Webster says August was selected to allow people to return from vacation or the land and for school to get started.

He says wages are the only issue the two sides are stuck on.

"The session was very cordial and I don't foresee any great problems in resolving this last issue when we reconvene. Our hamlet workers are a good group and don't appear upset over anything. In fact, they all seem pretty happy, " says Webster.

Svante Dunkers is a service officer with the Northern Employees Union.

He says he wouldn't go so far as to say all 40-plus Baker members are happy.

"We didn't just run out of time with the first session," says Dunkers. "We want to see financial statements from the hamlet which still haven't cleared the Department of Community Government and Transportation."

"We want to make an informed decision and we can't do that without proper financial statements."

Dunkers says he agrees with Webster that most issues have been resolved except for the wages.

He adds the wage gap is not that big, but there's no room for movement at this point.

"We're not in a hostile situation, but, from our viewpoint, we can't move from our stated position on wages without more information. We do have a good employee-employer relationship in Baker Lake right now.

"That's a positive development considering they've had some troubling times in the past, especially when the Housing Association was a stand-alone operation."