Proposed wage increases ire workers at Yellowknife union rally

A sticking point in negotiations between the N.W.T. government and the Union of Northern Workers is proposed wage increases.

Union of Northern Workers members voting whether to strike after 2 years of deadlocked negotiations

Union of Northern Workers president Todd Parsons speaks to the crowd at the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly on Friday. (Randi Beers/CBC)

Chants of "Hey hey, ho ho, zero-point-one has got to go!" reverberated outside the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly Friday as more than 60 workers rallied against what they are calling an unfair wage offer from the territorial government.

The chant refers to a 0.1 per cent bump the territorial government applied last month to a wage offer that will affect more than 4,000 of its unionized employees.

Some at the rally showed up wearing signs with the message "0.1 per cent equals $1 per week."

The N.W.T. government and Union of Northern Workers have been deadlocked over a new collective agreement for the past two years, and proposed wage increases remain a sticking point in negotiations. Last month, union president Todd Parsons announced a strike vote after rejecting the government's latest offer.

The territorial government maintains it can't afford the union's demands because of stagnant revenues.

MLA backs union workers

The crowd erupted in cheers at one point during the rally, as Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly stepped out of the legislature building.

O'Reilly had made a statement in the house earlier Friday morning in support of the workers.

Union of Northern Workers president Todd Parsons, left, talks to Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly at a union rally Friday. (Randi Beers/CBC)

"I don't support the wage offer that's on the table," he told CBC.

"I think it needs to be something close to a cost of living increase."

The union is seeking three per cent salary increases each year for a period of three years. The N.W.T. government is offering no salary increases for the first two years, a one per cent increase in year three and a 1.1 per cent increase in the fourth year.

Parsons previously said his workers are "insulted" by this concession.

Speaking at the rally, Parsons expressed confidence his members will vote to strike.

"It's unfortunate we have to take the action we're taking, mobilizing our members to strike, but be sure of one thing," he told the crowd.

"We'll receive the strike mandate from our members."

Parsons says he'll be travelling the Beaufort and Sahtu regions next week in an effort to mobilize workers.

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