YELLOWKNIFE – Unionized workers with the City of Yellowknife were on picket lines and the city locked out employees early Wednesday after mediation between the parties failed.
The city and the Union of Northern Workers, a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, were unable to reach a deal on a new collective agreement, with the union expressing concern about wages.
On Tuesday afternoon, the union said in a press release that the employer wasn’t willing to table a new offer and, unless it did so before midnight, members would strike.
“It truly feels like the employer did not come back to the table to bargain in good faith,” the union said, asking residents not to cross picket lines.
The city, meanwhile, said in a statement that the union’s bargaining team left the table with more than 13 hours left to reach a deal. The city said it was not given an “opportunity to be creative and work with the union towards a solution.”
The city said there are about 205 employees in the bargaining unit.
It said a work stoppage would see the closure of the public library, pool, community arena and dump to the public, as well as the reduction of other services. Emergency services, including fire and ambulance, would continue.
The previous collective agreement between the city and union expired at the end of 2021.
Collective bargaining between the parties broke down late last year and they entered conciliation. When the union rejected the city’s final offer, which it described as “insulting” to the bargaining team in a letter to the mayor and council, unionized employees voted to strike last month.
That offer included a two per cent salary increase for staff in 2022 and a further two per cent increase for 2023.
The parties then agreed to re-enter mediated negotiations early this week in a final effort to reach a new agreement.
The union gave notice to the city on Saturday, saying if a deal wasn’t reached by Wednesday staff would go on strike. The city responded saying it would lock out employees about 5 a.m. Wednesday.
The union sent a letter to city councillors urging them not to cross picket lines.
“Crossing picket lines, especially for city councillors who are leadership to the management and the unionized workers, shows ultimate disrespect for your workers,” it states.
The union also sent letters to three councillors who are members of the union advising them to recuse themselves from discussions or voting on collective bargaining.
The union said its executive voted to use $250,000 form its wage disruption fund to provide additional financial support to members on strike.
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