Unionized workers at Yukon’s Many Rivers Counselling Services made good on their promise to walk off the job.
Last week, the workers voted 83 per cent in favour of a strike, and they began their protest at about 9 a.m. local time in Whitehorse Monday.
Of the 18 workers on the picket line, 11 are counsellors, including the coordinator of the no-fixed address outreach van.
They provide critical support and services to people in Whitehorse and rural communities.
The big issue in their protest is the ability to hold flexible hours. The organization’s management wants to be able to have the authority to approve extra work hours, while the union says it wants its employees to be able to provide service whenever they see fit.
"Crises aren't scheduled between nine and five – they need to be able to respond to them when they happen," said Steve Geick from the Yukon Employees Union.
"They [the employer] had a chance before the labour board to declare positions essential services similar to the hospital or fire department or police, but they didn't do that. So basically the message they're sending is the services these employees are providing are not essential to the community, and that's wrong."
Marilyn Wolovick, executive director of Many Rivers Counselling Services, said it's the accumulation of banked flex time that is causing the problem.
"Counselors are able to have a flexible schedule that gets pre-approved by their supervisor, so it's the variations to those flexible schedules that is at issue here and we're saying two hours is the maximum that you can generate of flex time without supervisory approval. And then anything above those two hours has to have supervisory approval."
As it stands, neither side seems willing to budge on the issue. However, the union insists it is ready to resume bargaining.