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Strike tensions rising in Iqaluit

Kirsten Murphy
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Jun 18/01) - Garbage piles and tempers are rising as labour strife enters its eighth week.

Last week featured a showdown at the dump in which a truck window was smashed and six workers crossed the strike line to return to work.

The dump showdown came after Nunavut's health department ordered the city to deal with the growing garbage piles around the city.

That order was withdrawn after picketing city workers clashed with contracted workers.

John Jacobsen of Tower Arctic Ltd. said a driver's window was smashed June 14 as a truck loaded with trash tried to enter the dump. The driver was not injured. A report was not filed with the RCMP as of Friday, said Cpl. Bob Pilot.

Emergency health officer Shaun Mackie told the city to take a massive mound of garbage outside city hall to the dump by Friday. He withdrew the order after Thursday's altercation.

Trouble started when drivers tried to enter the dump without a city employee present, contrary to a deal worked out between the two sides.

The definition of "employee" was being hammered out Friday afternoon and the clean-up is expected to resume this week.

Picketers at the dump said they heard of an incident but denied hearing of any physical violence or vandalism.

The city's 85 unionized workers were locked out April 17 after contract talks were deadlocked over wage demands. The union rejected the city's latest offer last week and after the city lifted its lockout, employees went on strike.

The dispute is starting to take its toll on workers. Six returned to work last week.

"We all want to go back to work, it's not like we like being on strike," said Hannah Uniuqsaraq, one of the workers who remains on the picket line. "People are having a tough financial time, but there is help out there ... united we stand, divided we fall."

Water-sewer services and emergency services continue being delivered under an essential services agreement.