Union officials are accusing Hay River mayor Andrew Cassidy of trying to divide the community by encouraging striking town workers to cross the picket line.
30 town employees have been on strike since February 9 over a wage dispute.
On Wednesday, the town returned to the bargaining table with an increased offer of 1.25% for each year of the agreement – its original offer was a 1% year-on-year increase.
Workers, meanwhile, are seeking an annual increase of more than 2% over that time, which they believe is more in tune with the cost of living.
In an effort to end the strike quickly, a timeline of 24 hours was put on the offer.
But the Union of Northern Workers, which represents Town of Hay River employees, was quick to reject it.
The rejection prompted Cassidy to issue an open letter to town employees, asking them to return to work.
“If you return, you will receive the 1% salary increase for January 1, 2014 and the 1% salary increase for January 1, 2015 which we continue to offer,” he said.
“You will also receive all of the benefits and allowances under the previous collective agreement, with the exception of the deduction of union dues.”
But striking employees are accusing the town of simply offering an ultimatum, with no room to bargain fairly.
“The town’s offer was the most disappointing thing ever,” said Kim Tybring, head of maintenance for the town recreation centre, in a union press release. “We’ve been standing out in the cold for three weeks just to get an ultimatum. It’s unprofessional.”
Emma Harper, another striking employee, added: “It’s upsetting that they’re trying to divide coworkers, friends and their families by asking them to cross the picket line.”
Both sides appear keen to reassure workers that their jobs will not be lost, no matter what they do.
“The union cannot cause you to lose your job with the town,” read the town’s statement.“The union can suspend or revoke your membership in the union. Even if the union revokes your membership, that does not affect your employment with the town.”
The union’s own statement notes: “It would be illegal to fire any worker for strike-related activities.”
There is currently no timetable for either party to return to the bargaining table.