Hay River strike: Town withdraws latest offer, accuses union

Hay River strike
Steelworkers from Yellowknife joined the picket line last week, according to the union.
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The Town of Hay River says it’s withdrawing its latest offer to end the ongoing strike.

Mayor Andrew Cassidy claims the Union of Northern Workers has gone back on its word, and says negotiations have consequently been paused.

The union argues it’s simply asking for a return to work agreement, which it calls a “common practice”, and denies it has done anything wrong.

Statements published by both sides on Monday end a week-long media blackout – which the town says the union requested.

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Town and union bargaining teams have been working with a federal conciliation officer to resolve their dispute, as a strike by town workers nears its fifth month.

The town says it offered workers a 1.7 percent year-on-year wage increase, over three years, “in a sincere effort to end the strike”. That’s a small increase on any previous publicized offer.

In Monday’s statement, Cassidy claimed the union had agreed to put that offer to its membership – but went back on its word and later asked for more conditions.

“These conditions were not discussed during the negotiations. The town confirmed with the conciliation officer that there had been no discussion of those preconditions,” said Cassidy.

The town has now withdrawn its offer on the grounds that the union did not put that offer to its membership as agreed.

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Cassidy says the offer will be reinstated if the union confirms it will take the original terms to a vote by town employees, “without any other conditions”.

The union says this is not the whole story.

It says workers “are prepared to vote on the employer’s offer once a return to work agreement is put in place”.

The union’s statement adds: “A return to work agreement is a protocol that states the conditions for employees to return to work following a labour dispute.

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“The agreement is not a new condition imposed by the union, but is instead a common practice in all contract negotiations that protects the interests of both the workers and the employer.

“Union representatives have made clear the need for an agreement throughout the negotiations.”

Gayla Thunstrom, union vice-president, said: “We’ve promised to take the town’s offer to the membership, and we will. But not before we can give our members all the facts.”

Workers first went out on strike on February 9.

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