Iqaluit Housing Authority staff give notice of potential strike
Nunavut Employees Union president says full walkout could happen as soon as Friday
The Nunavut Employees Union has given the Iqaluit Housing Authority a 72-hour strike action notice — meaning union members could strike as early as Friday.
That's if the housing authority doesn't come back to the table with what the union deems an acceptable and fair offer.
Union president Jason Rochon said the bargaining unit of 11 members has been fighting for what it calls a fair collective agreement for over a year. The group is looking to get better wages, increases to current allowances, and no concessions.
"We're looking at walking out … if that's what it's going to take," Rochon said. "That's unfortunate that it's going to get there, but that's where I see us going probably as early as Friday."
He said his members voted "overwhelmingly" for strike action. The union, which is part of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), won't be releasing the January strike vote results, but he said more than 90 per cent voted in favour.
The Iqaluit Housing Authority is part of the Nunavut Housing Corporation (NHC), and administers affordable housing and other housing programs in the city. The corporation is responsible for allocating the budgets for all Nunavut housing associations, which includes the salaries of the employees, according to the union.
The wage offer currently on the table is between 1.25 and 1.5 per cent, according to a union press release, which it said reflects the NHC's overall bargaining mandate.
In Iqaluit, inflation last year was about 3.4 per cent. That was even higher nationally, at 5.9 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.
Rochon said his members are looking to be compensated for the inflation "crisis" and higher wages. He wouldn't say how much of a raise they are looking for specifically, but said the current offer isn't good enough.
"What they're offering is peanuts. So we know that elephants work for peanuts and we're talking about human beings," said Rochon. "They deserve to be compensated for the work that they do. The wages that are being offered right now are insulting."
In a statement Tuesday, the NHC warned of an operational impact to the Iqaluit Housing Authority if workers choose to strike Friday.
It said the housing authority is an independent organization that delivers the Nunavut Housing Corporation's public housing program, and manages the corporation's assets in Iqaluit.
"We want to emphasize that the priority is to maintain service delivery to public housing tenants," the statement read.
"[The Iqaluit Housing Authority] has contingency plans to ensure that critical maintenance services will continue to be provided during this time."
The NHC added it cannot discuss the negotiations between the housing authority and the union, but that it is "confident that the Iqaluit Housing Authority is committed to finding a resolution to the dispute in a respectful and constructive manner."
Last November, PSAC and the Nunavut Employees Union called on NHC leadership to change the organization's mandate in order to improve wages for its employees.
In the event of labour action, Rochon said his members are looking for the community's support.
Rochon said the housing authority has a recruitment and retention issue, with employees often leaving to find better paying jobs.
The union also says it is fighting "concessionary language" proposed by the housing authority related to term and casual employees, which the union believes will weaken their protections and result in "less secure employment."
The Iqaluit Housing Authority declined an interview.