Town of Hay River

June 17--No Deal from Latest Hay River Strike Talks 

The Union followed through with our commitment to bring the employer's last offer to the members. The members overwhelmingly voted to reject the offer at a meeting last night. 

The Bargaining Team is willing to return to the table at any time to entertain a fair offer from the Employer. 

“Recent agreements with the Village of Fort Simpson, Fort Smith Housing Authority and AVENS: A Community for Seniors have all produced wage settlements of two per cent per year or better,” says Union of Northern Workers President Todd Parsons, “Yet this employer refuses to bend in reaching a similar, reasonable settlement.”

“While our negotiations have fallen through, our members are still confident we can find the common ground necessary to reach an agreement,” says Jack Bourassa, Regional Executive Vice President for PSAC North. “Town of Hay River workers will stand together until we reach a fair and reasonable deal.”

The union continues to urge the Town of Hay River to soften their hardline position and negotiate an agreement that will allow members to return to work. 

June 1--Worker Will Vote on Deal Once Return to Work Agreement in Place 

Striking Town of Hay River employees are prepared to vote on the employer’s offer once a return to work agreement is put in place.    

A return to work agreement is a protocol that states the conditions for employees to return to work following a labour dispute. 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.    

Town of Hay River workers and Town Council need to be aware of return to work protocols before they can reasonably vote on the contract offer on the table.    

“The Town has said publicly that they will be eliminating positions of some members now on strike,” says Jack Bourassa, Regional Executive Vice President North for the Public Service Alliance of Canada. “We’re not going to vote on new contract conditions unless we know all our striking members are going back to work.  Having a back to work agreement is standard practice in the settlement of any strike.”   

Union representatives have made clear the need for an agreement throughout the negotiations.  The Town of Hay River bargaining team has said it needs a back to work agreement in place for the Council to make a decision on any proposal.      

“How can a member vote on a contract offer when they don’t even know if they have a job to go back to?” Union of Northern Workers Vice President Gayla Thunstrom says, “How can all striking members vote on an offer when they don’t know if their co-workers are losing their jobs?”   

“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,” Thunstrom says. “Our bargaining team has supplied a draft back to work agreement for the Town’s consideration.  It’s up to them to respond.”   

A return to work protocol was put in place for Fort Smith Housing Authority workers before a vote was held to end the their strike in February, under the guidance of the same employer negotiator as Hay River.   

“The Town’s position throws up obstacles around a step that is a standard protocol in voting on any settlement where a strike is involved.” Bourassa says, “The sooner we get the back to work agreement done, the sooner we can go to a vote.”   

The Town has stated that they are withdrawing their current offer, and the union remains committed to returning to the table immediately. 

May 21--Hay River Employees to Resume Talks

Bargaining teams representing Town of Hay River workers and their employer will resume negotiations in an effort to find common ground and put an end to the labour dispute.    Both parties will resume talks Monday May 25.   

“This strike has taken a heavy toll on the community,” says Jack Bourassa, Regional Executive Vice President for the Public Service Alliance of Canada North. “Although we believed we were at an impasse, the Town indicated a willingness to negotiate, and our members are prepared to exhaust every avenue possible to end the strike.”

“While our members still feel neutral, third-party arbitration is the best way to quickly resolve the labour dispute, our two sides are very close and we believe that through negotiations we can reach an agreement that benefits the whole community,” says Gayla Thunstrom, Vice President of the Union of Northern Workers. 
 
May 12--Town Must Accept Arbirtration to End Strike 
The Hay River Town Council’s refusal to refer its labour dispute to binding arbitration has resulted in the loss of the Town’s affordable summer camp program for about 60 children and their parents in the community. The Town’s plan to hire scab workers to replace Town of Hay River employees will also heighten tensions and prolong the strike. 
 
“These announcements push this dispute to new heights,” says Union of Northern Workers Vice President Gayla Thunstrom, “We cannot allow scabs to take our Members’ work.  And we must not see this program cancelled when arbitration can provide an immediate solution.”
 
 “Because of their decision to engage in “Hard Bargaining,” this Council is leaving many working parents without an affordable children’s summer camp program,” says Public Service Alliance of Canada North Regional Executive Vice President Jack Bourassa. “How can that decision possibly make sense for the good of the community?”
 
Thunstrom and Bourassa point out that the Town Council has saved the cost of the three-year wage increase many times over thanks to unpaid wages.  
 
“We believe our case for a wage increase is just, and Town Council thinks its position is correct,” Mr. Bourassa says.  “Let’s agree to accept a neutral decision on this, and bring this dispute to a dignified end for both sides.”
 
“This strike has caused enough division and anger in Hay River,” Ms. Thunstrom says, “Let’s agree to disagree and let an arbitrator sort it out.”
 

May 6--Striking Workers Will Picket NWTAC Meeting

Striking Town of Hay River employees are asking people not to cross picket lines being mounted at locations staging events of the NWT Association of Communities (NWTAC) conference in the Hay River region.
 
A main picket line will be set up at the Highway 5 bridge just west of the entrance to the K'atl’odeeche First Nation (KFN) reserve.  The picket line is being set up away from the reserve entrance to ensure no infringement on KFN lands takes place.  
 
Picketing at the bridge will begin Thursday afternoon, to coincide with the start of the NWTAC conference.  Strikers are declaring a “virtual picket line” at any conference event locations in the region where outsourced work is taking place.
 
“The Town of Hay River applied to host the meeting and promised to provide staff to support the event.  Those jobs would have been done by our workers,” says Union of Northern Workers President Todd Parsons, “So outsourcing that work makes no difference.  Organizational work is struck work, and we’ll picket it anywhere it takes place in the Hay River region.” 
 
“We have offered to end the strike and allow our members to return to work through fair and neutral binding arbitration,” says Jack Bourassa, Regional Executive Vice President North for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, “The Town refused our offer and instead decided to prolong the strike and the impact on the community. Our offer of third party arbitration is still on the table and continues to be the best option to end the strike in Hay River.” 
 
Media reports and statements from municipal governments indicate representatives will not be attending from the towns of Fort Smith and Inuvik and the Village of Fort Simpson. Media reports say that a lesser delegation of one person is attending from the City of Yellowknife.  
 

 

 

 

 

 

April 29--PSAC National Convention Contributes Over $100,000 to Hay River Strikers

Pledges by Public Service Alliance of Canada National Convention delegates totaling more than $50,000 have been matched by the national union, amassing a donation of $107,200 in support for striking municipal workers in Hay River.
 
The wave of donations rolled in after Union of Northern Workers President Todd Parsons addressed the Quebec City convention with details of the Town’s refusal to negotiate fairly or agree to binding arbitration in the 11-week old dispute.  
 
Donations ranging from $100 to $5,000 have been pledged by 79 individuals, locals and components attending the national convention.
 
“I’m stunned, but not surprised by the fantastic solidarity shown by our national brothers and sisters,” says UNW President Todd Parsons. “This generosity is the PSAC convention’s mass response to the Town of Hay River’s union busting tactics.  Convention-goers are shoulder to shoulder with our Hay River members.”
 
"It's heartwarming to see so much support flood in from our allies across Canada," says Jack Bourassa, Regional Executive Vice President North for the Public Service Alliance of Canada. "It is by standing together that we show our strength and perseverance. “
 
Members of the union local will determine the use of the donations. 

April 28--Town of Hay River Rejects Binding Arbitration

The Town of Hay has refused to take part in binding arbitration to bring an end to the 78 day long strike with its workers, prolonging community divisions and hardships, leaders representing the unionized workers say.
 
“This is a continuation of the arrogant, harsh stance the Town has taken throughout negotiations,” says Union of Northern Workers President Todd Parsons.  “There’s no rational explanation for the town’s refusal to bring a fair end to this strike. Obviously, the town leaders prefer confrontation to cooperation.”
 
“Hay River will continue to suffer as a result of this stubbornness,” says Jack Bourassa, Regional Executive Vice President for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, “The Town must bear full responsibility for the continuing loss of services, loss of economic opportunities, and ill feelings splitting the community.”
 
With the failure of recent bargaining and the town’s refusal of arbitration, a number of major events of the coming months remain in jeopardy.  Not only the NWT Association of Communities’ annual general meeting, but summer day care services, recreation and other events will be picketed as long as the strike lasts.
 
An April signing ceremony celebrating the staging of the 2018 Arctic Winter Games in Hay River has been moved from Hay River to Yellowknife to avoid picketing of the event, sources have disclosed.
 

April 22--Union Calls for Arbitration to End Hay River Strike 

Unions representing striking workers have called on the Town of Hay River to turn the dispute over to a neutral third party for binding arbitration.  
 
The arbitrator would set the terms of a new collective agreement and bring an end to the 10 week long strike.If arbitration is agreed to, employees would return to work very quickly. An arbitrator would be appointed, then research and set the terms of a new contract.  
 
“The Town says it wants an end to the strike — so do we, and this is the sure way to do it,” says Union of Northern Workers President Todd Parsons, “The only outstanding issues are the wage increase and applying that increase to the housing allowance. Let’s have an arbitrator settle that.”    
 
“The community has suffered too much over the past 10 weeks,” says Jack Bourassa, REVP North for the Public Service Alliance of Canada. “It’s time we set our differences aside and allow a neutral party to decide what is best for the Town and our members.”
 
April 20--Talks Between Town and Workers Collapse

Town of Hay River workers were unfortunately unable to reach a fair deal with their employer during a third round of bargaining April 19-20.  

The bargaining team for Town employees went to the table fully prepared to reach an agreement that would allow members to return to work, but the employer failed to propose a reasonable offer.  

“All our members are very disappointed with the failure to reach a settlement,” says Jack Bourassa, Regional Executive Vice President, North for the Public Service Alliance of Canada. “The Town has saved the cost of this wage increase many times over through not paying 10 weeks of salaries. Allowing workers to remain on the picket line is only hurting the community.”  

“Our Members are united and determined.  They absolutely refuse to accept the Town’s measly offers when everyone knows a full settlement comes at no cost to Town coffers,” says Union of Northern Workers President Todd Parsons. “We will hold the line as long as it takes to get a fair settlement that recognizes the sacrifices made by our Members since February.” 

April 16--Town of Hay River, Workers to Resume Talks  
Town of Hay River workers and their employer have both accepted an invitation from the conciliation officer to return to the bargaining table and resume talks.    
Bargaining is scheduled to take place Sunday, April 19th and Monday, April 20th.  
 
“We’re optimistic that the employer will table a fair and reasonable offer that will allow Town employees to return to work,” says Jack Bourassa, Regional Executive Vice President, North for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.    The union is still awaiting a decision regarding the NWT Association of Communities conference, which may be forced to move if the strike continues.
 
“Our Members remain united, determined and confident,” says Union of Northern Workers President Todd Parsons. “The recent barrage of support letters shows the community is behind us.  It’s time the Town Council recognized its position is out of touch, and came to a fair settlement with workers.” 
 

April 13--Hay River in Danger of Losing Major Conference

The Northwest Territories Association of Communities (NWTAC) conference in Hay River is being placed in jeopardy as Town of Hay River picketers begin their tenth week on the line.
 
The NWTAC Annual General Meeting is scheduled to take place in Hay River May 7-10, with more than 100 mayors and senior staff attending from across the NWT. The conference is a huge revenue generator for local businesses, contributing more than a hundred thousand dollars to the community economy.
 
But with Town of Hay River employees still without a fair contract, AGM events will be picketed wherever they take place. Striking workers will not be available to supply support services, and many participants will refuse to cross a unionized picket line to attend.
 
 

March 12--Hay River Needs a Lesson in Fair Bargaining, Say UNW and PSAC Leaders

Hay River councillors need to take a lesson in fair bargaining from recent settlements of labour negotiations in Yellowknife and Fort Smith, say the leaders of the Union of Northern Workers (UNW) and Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).
In Yellowknife, conciliation talks and fair-minded bargaining averted a strike of workers at Avens—A Community for Seniors.   While strike action was necessary in Fort Smith, respectful negotiations with an employer willing to end the dispute resulted in a fair settlement for workers at the Fort Smith Housing Authority.

Yet employer willingness to reach a settlement doesn't seem to exist in Hay River.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 25—Union forced to walk away from the table

Workers and the union are always ready to return to the table and negotiate, by the Town has only offered the team an ulitmatum, with no room to bargain fairly.
And by inviting the members to cross their own picket line and return to work the mayor plans to divide the community instead of working together to end the strike.
 
 

February 24—Invited back to the table

After nearly 3 weeks of strike action, the mediation officer invited both the Union and the Town of Hay River back to the bargaining table to resume negotiations, and both parties have agreed.  Talks are planned to resume on Wed. Feb. 25.  
 

February 16—Northern Journal - Walking the Line, Seeking Fairness

A great editorial online by the Northern Journal - a very clear and concise summary of the issues around cost of living and fair wages! 
 
 

February 9—Town of Hay River Strike Underway

Unionized workers at the Town of Hay River will begin a strike with full withdrawal of services Monday February 9 at 8 AM.

Public Service Alliance of Canada North members of Union of Northern Workers (UNW) Local 6 will set up a picket line at their strike headquarters outside the town’s Recreation Centre.

The required 72 hour strike notice was served following approval of documentation by the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

Negotiators from the Public Service Alliance of Canada have been in contract talks since August 2014. Workers voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action on January 12. Conciliation broke down during the first day January 13, without an agreement.

Town negotiators originally made an extremely poor wage offer, and have moved only slightly. Members’ primary negotiating demand is for a modest increase in wages, in keeping with the increase in the cost of living.

“The stalled negotiations and lack of a reasonable offer have left our members with no choice,” says UNW President Todd Parsons. “We’re determined to see this strike action through to a fair agreement that’s good for the workers and the community.”

Public Service Alliance of Canada Regional Executive Vice President Jack Bourassa says that Local 6 and the Town are so close in their positions that a settlement could be reached if the Town would come back to bargaining with a fair offer.

“The difference in positions amounts to the price of a cup of coffee a day,” he said. “We could settle this if the Town would be reasonable.”

A PSAC negotiator is on stand-by to resume talks, should the Town want to come back to the bargaining table.

Approximately 30 Local 6 members will be involved in the strike action. Some municipal employees have been declared essential, and will perform emergency services.

Read the Media Release

February 6—Town of Hay River Workers Give Strike Notice

Unionized workers at the Town of Hay River have given notice of strike action to begin Friday February 6.
 
Members of Union of Northern Workers (UNW) Local 6 will be on the picket line Friday morning unless a deal to avert the strike is reached beforehand. Workers voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action on January 12. Conciliation broke down during the first day January 13, without an agreement.
 
Negotiators from the Public Service Alliance of Canada have been in contract talks since August 2014. Town negotiators originally made an extremely poor wage offer, and have moved only slightly. Members’ primary negotiating demand is for a modest increase in wages, in keeping with the increase in the cost of living.
 
There are also concerns that the Town of Hay River intends to bring in out-of-town scabs.
 
“It’s been confirmed to us that the Town of Hay River is preparing to bring in scab workers to replace our striking members.” says UNW President Todd Parsons. “It’s not only disgraceful that any municipal council in the NWT would bring in replacement workers. These workers would be on hand at a youth hockey tournament, and tensions could be very high.”
 
“We are so close to a deal there is really no excuse for this to proceed to strike action,” says PSAC North Regional Executive Vice President Jack Bourassa. “We are urging all residents of Hay River to contact their council members and avoid this disruption of services.”
 
Members are setting up strike headquarters opposite the recreation centre and preparing to mount a full picket line Friday.
 
Approximately 30 Local 6 members will be involved in the strike action. Some municipal employees have been declared essential, and will perform emergency services.
 

January 12—Hay River Employees Take Strike Vote 

Employees for the Town of Hay River will hold a strike vote Monday, January 12, after months of talks have stalled.
 
The Union feels the bargaining team and the employer are close to making a deal, and will be bringing in a conciliator to help negotiate a new collective agreement.
 
The bargaining team has been working hard to reach a reasonable deal since July 2014, but the Union feels the employer hasn’t been fair in their demands.
 
Workers at the Town of Hay River love their community and their work, and have come to a strike vote only as a last resort.
 
“Our two sides aren’t so far apart, and I feel that with the help of a conciliator, we’ll be able to reach a deal that is fair for both our members and the employer,” said Jack Bourassa, Regional Executive Vice President (REVP) North for the Public Service Alliance of Canada. 
A strike vote will demonstrate the employees’ solidarity with their bargaining team, and will allow the team to take job action if conciliation talks fall through. 
 
“We’re prepared to work with the Town of Hay River to break this impasse and reach a settlement that is good for our members, the Town of Hay River and all its citizens,” said Todd Parsons, President of the Union of Northern Workers.
 
Conciliation will take place January 13-14, 2015 in Hay River.