City of Yellowknife says union left bargaining without responding to latest offer

YELLOWKNIFE — The City of Yellowknife says talks with its unionized workers to settle a labour dispute ended Monday when the union “chose to end bargaining” at 6 p.m. and left the table without responding to its latest offer.

Talks between the city and the Union of Northern Workers were planned for Sunday but the union said they had to be postponed due to the mediator’s flights being delayed.

The city says in a news release that it added a one-time inflation adjustment and signing bonuses to its earlier offer of base wage increases of two per cent per year for 2022 and 2023.

The union, according to the city, had been seeking a five per cent raise in 2022 and three per cent in 2023, along with other perks that included an $800-per-year increase to vacation travel assistance.

Workers with the City of Yellowknife hit the picket lines and the city locked out employees early last Wednesday after mediation between the parties failed.

The Union of Northern Workers and Public Service Alliance of Canada said in a statement Tuesday that the city had refused to increase wages beyond two per cent.

“We tried our best to get a fair deal yesterday,” Local 345 president Reilly Hinchey said in a statement. “Hearing that the city is unwilling to move on wages, we did not think it would be fair to sit in a warm room knowing that it was all pointless.”

Hinchey said the bargaining team planned to join picketing unionized workers.

The city said in a statement Monday that it is committed to negotiating a collective agreement that is fair, respects the important role city employees play in Yellowknife and is affordable for residents and businesses.

“The City remains available and ready to resume bargaining.”

In its statement on Tuesday, the union said the city’s actions “indicated that they have no intention of reaching a fair deal and would rather close facilities and punish the public as leverage to force members into a bad deal.”

The city said last week that the union’s offer totalled more than an additional $1.6 million on top of what was already budgeted for in 2023, which it said would equal an additional 4.79 per cent property tax increase.

The previous collective agreement between the city and the union expired at the end of 2021.

The city has said a work stoppage would see the closure of the public library, pool, community arena and dump to the public, as well as the reduction of other services. Emergency services, including fire and ambulance, are to continue.

Collective bargaining between the parties broke down late last year and they entered conciliation. Workers voted to strike last month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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