North

Hay River Health and Social Services Authority bargaining team relieved of duties

The bargaining team that represents the unionized employees of the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority say they have been relieved of their duties, and a strike vote scheduled for today has been cancelled.

Local 21 says union pulled the plug this week after attempt to bargain directly with employer

Hay River's hospital. The bargaining team that represents employees of the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority say they were relieved of their duties this week after asking permission to negotiation directly with their employers. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

The bargaining team that represents the unionized employees of the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority says it has been relieved of its duties, and a strike vote scheduled for today has been cancelled.

According to a notice posted on the Union of Northern Workers Local 21 Facebook page on Wednesday, the bargaining team wanted to meet directly with representatives from the health and social services authority to see if they could reach an agreement.

The statement said it's obvious "bargaining up to this point has been largely ineffective."

The bargaining team, made up of Heather Coakwell, Ann Schreuders and Barbara Holland, proposed the plan to their spokesperson at the union, and were not only denied, but stripped of their duties, according to the statement.

"Being relieved of our duties on the bargaining team came as a shock and great disappointment to the three of use," it reads.

"We will continue to stand beside [our members] through this process, however we are no longer your bargaining team and we are unsure who to defer to at this time."

Members of Local 21 were preparing to hold a strike vote on Thursday, but a notice posted to its Facebook page yesterday says it's been cancelled "due to unforeseen circumstances."

Representatives from the Union of Northern Workers declined comment, but sent a statement saying they are "investigating what happened."

"All members of the bargaining team have been fully involved with making decisions within these negotiations," it says.

"Our priority is the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority members, that's who we work for."

In an email, Erin Griffiths, the CEO of the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority, confirmed that the authority was approached by members of the bargaining team, who "asked if we would be willing to meet informally to discuss how far apart we truly are on issues, and to brainstorm ideas to make the agreement work."

Griffiths said that the authority responded in the affirmative, as long as the meeting was authorized by Local 21's bargaining spokesperson.

"We are not sure how this will impact negotiations," she wrote of the bargaining team being relieved of their duties. "We were surprised to learn that the bargaining team members who work with the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority, and have been there from the beginning, will no longer be at the table.

"We continue to be hopeful that we can come to an agreement with the Union."

Current collective agreement expired in 2016

The union represents 200 employees at the authority, who, according to a Local 21 communique, have been without a collective agreement for more than two years.

The current collective agreement expired March 31, 2016.

"After 18 months of negotiations, the [authority] ... still wants to force two years of zero-wage increases on its hard-working staff while offering very little in return," it says.

"Inflation over the life of the proposed four-year deal is forecast at 7.6 per cent while the employer has offered less than four per cent."

With files from Steve Silva

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