Step into the ring
Work stoppage may come if money issues not on table

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Aug 07/00) - When Government of Nunavut workers pull on their sealskins this winter, it could be to keep warm on the picket line.

According to Doug Workman, the president of the Nunavut Employees Union, if some serious monetary issues aren't addressed during round four of the bargaining sessions between the union and the employer, it could mean strike action will be taken as early as the winter of 2000-2001.

Round four of contract negotiations is scheduled to take place between Sept. 25-Oct. 4 in Iqaluit.

"We're developing strategies for a possible strike in the event that a contract is not reached and agreed upon. We're preparing for a winter strike," said Workman.

Three bargaining sessions have already taken place, but the two sides have failed to come up with a new contract to replace the existing agreement that expired in March. The current contract remains valid so long as bargaining sessions are under way.

"We'll have a 10-day session," said Workman. "We want a very specific agenda dealing with very specific issues, mostly monetary."

Workman explained that at the closing of the third round -- a round he described as unproductive -- the GN retreated with the goal of conducting more research to better determine the cost of living in Nunavut.

That research he said, was ongoing and would hopefully result in the GN coming back to the table with an increase in the benefits package they plan to offer employees. Workman also said round four would result in actual salary packages, health benefits and harassment policies being brought to the table.

While the union president said he does have hope that a strike can be avoided, the negotiation of an essential services contract and the planning for the possible winter event continues.

"We're hopeful there will be an improvement on (the GN's) last position. Having said that, we're preparing for a strike," he said.

Both Kelvin Ng, the Minister of Human Resources, and Garry Pinto, the director of labour relations, were unavailable for comment by press time.