QEC workers' housing subsidy will be covered, says union
Nunavut government says workers’ rent could more than double; Union says it will pay the difference
Qulliq Energy Corp. workers in Nunavut have been on strike for two weeks, and now the pressure is mounting over their housing subsidy.
The government of Nunavut says it's getting legal advice to find out if it can withdraw the subsidy, which could mean more than doubling workers' rent. Workers may also be charged retroactively to the beginning of the strike.
Don Davidge has only been with the QEC for two months. He left his two boys and fiancée in Alberta after the oil industry crashed in hopes of earning enough to support them. Davidge says if his rent goes up, he might be forced to leave Iqaluit.
"If that happens I won't be staying. I can't afford to help pay for my kids down South, help my fiancée with rent down there, and then double the rent here," says Davidge.
Davidge makes approximately $950 in strike pay per week, including $141 from the Public Service Alliance of Canada and a $50 top up from the Nunavut Employees Union each day, but that won't be enough to cover his bills if his rent is increased by 60 to 70 per cent.
"The whole paycheque would cover rent," he says, "I wouldn't be able to pay for food, or utilities, or gas, or child support, or any of those other bills that I got to take care of."
This is not Davidge's first strike, he's been on the picket line before, but he says the lack of communication between the government and the union "is not a good sign."
"I'm pretty discouraged with what's going on," says Davidge, "It doesn't look very bright right now in my opinion."
Law may be on strikers' side
For striking workers originally from Nunavut, leaving is not an option. Jayko Langer has a family of four, and says even with the housing subsidy, it's hard to make ends meet on strike pay.
"Oh it's going to be definitely hard. Very hard. It's hard as it is right now. Like, strike pay doesn't quite cut it," says Langer.
The workers met with Ron Froese from the tenancy board to obtain information on their rights as tenants. They say the adjudicator told them the law is on their side.
"No matter how hard the lawyers look, the rental officer said without issuing a specific notice for 90 days, they cannot raise the rent," says Bill Fennell, the president of the Nunavut Employees Union.
The Nunavut Employees Union also told CBC that if the government withdraws the housing subsidy, the union will step in and cover the difference.