Mayor of Hay River invites striking employees to return to work

In an open letter to all Town of Hay River employees, Mayor Andrew Cassidy invited striking workers to return to their jobs, though they'd have to cross the picket line to do so.

Town of Hay River employees have been on strike since February 9

Striking Town of Hay River employees were invited back to work by Mayor Andrew Cassidy yesterday after bargaining talks broke down. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Hay River mayor Andrew Cassidy invited striking Town of Hay River employees back to work Wednesday in an open letter, offering a 1 per cent annual pay increase.

The letter comes following the latest round of bargaining talks between Town officials and the Union of Northern Workers, which represents Town of Hay River employees. The Town offered a 1.25 per cent annual wage increase in those negotiations, which was quickly rejected by union officials, without consulting their membership. The union has been seeking a 2 per cent increase. 

Town employees have been on strike since February 9.

"We feel that the membership has not had the opportunity to put a vote forward for themselves for our final two offers," says Cassidy, "and we just want our staff to know that we'd like them to come back to work, and we'd like the strike to end.

"We just want them to know they'd be supported if they came back to work."

The letter from the Mayor reads that any employees who accept the offer would receive all benefits and allowances under the previous collective agreement with the Town, with the exception of the deduction of union dues. 

'Overwhelming majority of support'

In the letter, Cassidy says that Town employees who choose to return to work will not have their long-term job status threatened by the union. However, they may be at risk of having their membership revoked.
Union president Todd Parsons says he doesn't think any of his members will cross the picket line: 'there's an overwhelming majority of support for the union bargaining team's position.'

"We understand that Town employees have been told that if an employee chooses to come back to work, the union will have that employee fired," the letter reads. "That is incorrect.

"The union cannot cause you to lose your job with the Town. The Union can suspend or revoke your membership in the union. Even if the union revokes your membership, that does not affect your employment with the town."

Union of Northern Workers president Todd Parsons was unimpressed by Cassidy's letter. 

"They offered to stop deducting union dues, in an effort to encourage membership to cross their own picket line...It's a strange tactic that I'm not familiar with and I don't believe it's going to assist the town in resolving this labour dispute." 

Parsons says he doesn't think any of his members will take the offer.

"There's an overwhelming majority of support for the union bargaining team's position," said Parsons, "And at the meeting today...the membership was visibly upset by the employer's offer of 1.25 per cent."

There is no timetable for the Town and union to return to the bargaining table. 

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