Two Yellowknife MLAs are calling for their fellow elected representatives to support binding arbitration with the Union of Northern Workers before a strike happens.
MLA for Yellowknife Centre Julie Green says she will move a motion at the Legislative Assembly Friday “(calling) on the Government of the Northwest Territories to agree to enter into binding arbitration before the scheduled strike begins.” The motion was seconded by MLA for Kam Lake Kieron Testart, who also apologized for not working harder to bring the three-year government-union dispute to an end.
“I am directly responsible for the actions to come, and I will be working tirelessly to try to bring an end to this dispute, to try to bring about a fair deal for northern workers, and to try to make sure a strike does not happen,” Testart said.
Speaking at the Legislative Assembly February 6th, Green called the union serving the GNWT with strike notice Tuesday ahead of weekend mediation ‘deliberately provocative’.
She also criticized the government, specifically the Minister of Finance, for an email sent out to government workers. The text includes an explanation of the process for workers to go to work during a strike.
It reads, in part:
“If you are a unionized employee and there is a strike, you may want to work. Unionized employees who are considering coming to work during job action and who have not been deemed Essential or Emergency, are encouraged to discuss their choice with their union representative. If you would like to come to work during job action you must contact your most immediate non-unionized supervisor. If you choose to report to work, you may need to cross a picket line at the beginning or end of your work day and your supervisor will discuss with you the protocol for doing s0.
“The result has been the same as throwing gas on a smouldering fire,” Green said.
She asked the Minister of Finance Robert McLeod to walk back the statement contained in the email, sent by deputy minister of finance David Stewart. McLeod declined to do so. “I have the ability to read, and what I read was that it encourages people to talk to their union representative,” he replied.
Green also pressed the finance minister on whether he would support binding arbitration. He answered that the focus was reaching an agreement over the weekend. ‘Failing that, we will have a discussion at that time, but let’s not presuppose the outcome of mediation before it even happens,’ he said.
In a press release Thursday afternoon, union president Todd Parsons urged all MLAs to support the motion. If strike action begins Monday at one minute past midnight, Parsons added the union would start ‘targeted strike activities of members who live in ridings of those MLAs who did not stand in support of this motion.’