Northwest Territories Town Unions Seek Arbitration
The unions collectively representing more than thirty employees of Hay River, a town in the Northwest Territories in Canada, have officially requested an arbitration process to settle ongoing employment disputes with the town. The request follows weeks of strikes and voluntary negotiations between the town and the employees. The old labor agreement expired in December 2013, and new contract talks began in August 2014.
Talks have been ongoing for more than ten weeks between the various unions and the town, but recently broke down completely, ending in stalemate. The unions responded to the lack of movement with an official request for an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process, specifically arbitration.
The conflict between city workers and the city is over wages. Negotiations for pay raises had begun months ago, but hit a wall when the town and the workers, represented jointly by PSAC North and the Union of Northern Workers (UNW), could not make their numbers line up.
The Hay River Town Council offered union workers a 1% annual wage increase over three years. The unions wanted 2.5% in the first year and 2.25% in years two and three, which they claim keeps pace with the rising cost of living. The union went on to describe the difference between the two salary plans as amounting to a cup of coffee a day. Workers had decided to strike earlier, but Canadian law requires at least 72 hours notice, pushing the strike action back a few days. The workers officially went on strike on January 12.
Hay River had identified necessary employees for providing basic services and claims that all essential services are being provided.
No word has been issued yet by the town council regarding the request for arbitration despite strong urging from the two unions