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New job for union president raises eyebrows

Delegate and election candidate to question Rolt-Kaiser at convention

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 30/02) - How the president of the Union of Northern Workers got a job with the organization she heads may be a hot topic at the union's annual convention this weekend.

Sheila Laity, a nurse educator with the territorial government who intends to enter the election for a new UNW president, wants to hear Georgina Rolt-Kaiser's explanation.

"My personal view is ... that the competition may not have been done properly and that we may have to look at redoing the competition," said Laity.

That would essentially mean doing the hiring process over again, and could mean Rolt-Kaiser would lose the job.

But, Laity added, she wants to question Rolt-Kaiser about the matter first.

"I've heard concerns from other people, and my view is that you need to hear both sides of a story before you make a decision."

Not a public decision

In an interview with Yellowknifer earlier this week, Rolt-Kaiser said she "probably will not" enter the race to head the 4,700 strong union. "I don't want to make that decision right now and certainly not for the press, to be out in public."

The job in question, that of service officer in the union, is to begin Sept. 3.

Regional vice-president Great Slave region Todd Parsons is also angling to replace Rolt-Kaiser as union president. He said the president followed union procedures.

"It was handled by an independent committee, so I don't see any wrongdoing or anything at this time," he said.

The three-person hiring committee would have included the supervisor of the service officer's position, Parsons confirmed. That supervisor would currently answer to Rolt-Kaiser.

Fear factor

Paul McAdams, a UNW delegate from Fort Smith, is upset Rolt-Kaiser accepted the job before completing her term as president.

"How could the person doing the hiring not hire you, for fear that if you didn't hire them they would fire you two weeks down the road?" said McAdams, who intends to question Rolt-Kaiser on the matter at the convention.

McAdams compared the situation to a government minister accepting a job as an assistant deputy minister before finishing her term -- and being interviewed for the spot by the deputy minister.

Fern Denault, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 802, said he was reluctant to comment on the situation or the Steelworkers' own conflict of interest policies.

"This is an internal thing with the Union of Northern Workers, and we don't have a habit of sticking our nose in other union's affairs," he said. But he added "this situation sounds to me like there's a conflict."

Rolt-Kaiser did not return repeated calls from Yellowknifer.