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UNW proposals thus far could cost $18M: GNWT
Union leader calls negotiation progress 'disappointing'

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Union of Northern Workers proposals for a new collective agreement with the territorial government could cost up to $18 million in the first year - and that's not including changes to salaries or the Northern living allowance, according to the GNWT.

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Todd Parsons, president of the Union of Northern Workers, says collective agreement negotiations had disappointing progress last week. - Shane Magee/NNSL photo

It's a price tag running headlong into a government stating it has no extra money to spend as it prepares its next budget.

The figure was included in a GNWT document posted online as part of negotiations that began in January to reach a deal for approximately 4,000 unionized public service workers.

How the $18 million figure was reached was not fully explained in the document and UNW President Todd Parsons said he's not sure what was used to calculate the number.

Andrew Livingstone, a cabinet spokesperson, stated in an e-mail that the figure was reached by calculating increased costs associated with the proposals based on historic usage, current rates of pay and the number of employees as of Oct. 15.

One of the union's proposals is to have the GNWT match the two cent per hour contribution provided by members to a Public Service Alliance of Canada social justice fund. According to a website for the fund, the promotion of the right to decent work, quality public services, human rights and equality are cornerstones of the fund.

Livingstone stated the GNWT has no money for the next two years to meet the demands already on the table from the union.

"The GNWT has tabled a financial position in negotiations that proposes no increase for the first two years and, should the parties agree to an agreement longer than two years it would be prepared to discuss very modest increases," stated Livingstone.

Negotiations so far have not touched on salary and Northern allowance changes, which the GNWT has stated it needs to have before considering other union requests.

Parsons in a note to union members stated three days of negotiations last week ended on "a disappointing note, with little productive discussion at the bargaining table."

"We're discouraged that the employer did not engage in meaningful negotiations on several non-monetary issues," Parsons stated.

No date has been set for the sides to return to the table, he said. The sides began negotiations in January.

The back and forth statements come weeks before the GNWT is expected to deliver the first budget of the 18th Legislative Assembly and after what previously appeared to be smooth discussions.

This week, the union and GNWT are working on an agreement that sets out what workers are considered essential in the event a labour dispute takes place.

In an interview Tuesday, Parsons said the union is nowhere near a strike.

Should the sides fail to agree during negotiations, a mediator can be brought in. Should that fail and members give the union a strike mandate, a strike could take place, Parsons said.

"We're nowhere near that process right now," Parsons said.

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