As the Union of Northern Workers and the GNWT prepare for mediation Friday and Saturday and a strike looms Monday, a Yellowknife MLA is questioning the government on why a waiver on crossing a picket line was sent out to government employees.
Minister of Finance Robert C. McLeod says the government is simply providing information to workers when questioned by MLA Julie Green about the waiver.
“We’ve provided them with the information upon a lot of employees requests, about the waiver. And if you read the one from last week, we encourage them to speak to their union representative. And this waiver is part of that process,” McLeod said at the legislative assembly Friday, alluding to an email sent to government employees from the finance ministry which 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 so.
“So I don’t think it’s inflaming anything,” McLeod adds. “It doesn’t really matter what we say, the temperature things are at nothing is going to calm it down anyway.”
Here is a copy of the waiver, provided to MyYellowknifeNow by the UNW:
GNWT Waiver by on Scribd
The document is meant to be signed by a worker and their supervisor, confirming the GNWT approves the worker’s request to “cross a job action picket line” of the UNW.
Green repeatedly questioned the minister at the legislature Friday on why the waiver was given out. She says the government’s actions undermine the union’s position.
“They don’t have to be on the picket line, but they are not usually welcomed back with open arms for crossing the picket line,” she says. “This inflames an already volatile situation.”
The Union of Northern Workers is characterizing the waiver as the government engaging in ‘union-busting’ activity.
“This is old-style and crass union-breaking tactics, clearly violating normal standards of decency for any government. This is an attack on workers basic right to bargain collectively and belong to a union,” union president Todd Parsons says in a news release.
Green will be asking members of the legislative assembly to support a motion Friday around noon calling on the government to enter into binding arbitration with the union before a strike begins.