North

No strike on Monday for N.W.T. gov't workers

The government of the Northwest Territories and the Union did not reach a tentative agreement after two days of mediation, but there won't be a strike on Monday.

The territorial government and union did not reach a deal, but have agreed to follow binding recommendations

A car outside the Union of Northern Workers office displays the union's flag on Saturday. The union and territorial government have agreed to follow binding recommendations from the mediator. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

After two days of mediation, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Union of Northern Workers have not reached a tentative agreement — but there won't be a strike on Monday.

The two parties have agreed to binding recommendations from mediator Vince Ready, and a condition of that agreement is that the members of the union won't be striking.

Earlier this week, the UNW said its members would strike on Monday if an agreement was not reached through this weekend's mediation with the territorial government — job action that would have impacted about 4,000 unionized employees, from school custodians to policy analysts.

But an expert says that "binding recommendations," from a mediator don't actually exist; and what the parties have agreed to is binding arbitration.

Kenneth Thornicroft, a professor of law and employment relations at the University of Victoria, said the process usually goes one of two ways.

Kenneth Thornicroft is a professor of law and employment relations at the University of Victoria Gustavson School of Business. (Submitted by Kenneth Thornicroft)

The first has the union and territorial government each submitting a proposal that would include their offers on the remaining issues to Ready.

Ready would then choose one proposal as a whole over the other.

Thornicroft said the second option is that each party submit an offer for every remaining issue. Ready would then go through and choose one of the offers for every issue. He said that would create a "hybrid of the two parties' proposals."

'Media blackout'

Ready imposed a "media blackout" while he prepares his recommendations, according to the press release. As a result, the territorial government says it won't comment on any questions related to the process. CBC has reached out to several members of the union's executive but have not heard back.

Ready said the parties had made "considerable progress" during the two days of mediation, according to a news release from both the government and the UNW. But the statement also said there remain a few outstanding issues, including "economic increases, term of the agreement, and job security issues."

In Sunday morning's release, the union said it was calling off the strike action planned for Monday morning as part of the binding mediation process. Like the process of binding arbitration, Thornicroft suspects that the process the parties have agreed to removes the union's right to strike.

"It's not a situation where if you don't like the arbitrators decision you can turn around and strike or lockout. This is in exchange for the right to strike and lockout. So you absolutely surrender your rights in those regards," he said.

What also still remains to be seen is whether a final agreement, with Ready's recommendations, will need to be voted on by the union membership or territorial government.

In Sunday's release, Ready said his recommendations could take up to 30 days to put together.  

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