Qulliq Energy workers union could serve strike notice next week

The Nunavut Employees' Union says workers at the power company rejected the Nunavut government's latest contract offer in a vote held June 16.

Nunavut power company workers vote to reject contract offer

The union representing workers at the Qulliq Energy Corporation in Nunavut say they are prepared to serve strike notice as early as Wednesday, if the territorial government doesn't come back to the negotiating table.

The more than 140 unionized employees at the power company, who have been without a contract since the end of 2013, rejected the latest offer from the Government of Nunavut's Department of Finance in a vote held on June 16.

Bill Fennell, president of the Nunavut Employees Union, says Qulliq Energy Corporation workers are prepared to serve strike notice as early as Wednesday. (Max Leighton/CBC)

Nunavut Employees Union President Bill Fennell says the union has invited the government back to the bargaining table it wants an answer by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7.

"We're more than interested in avoiding any kind of labour dispute," Fennell said.

"But should they not be willing, then the members are prepared to back up the strike vote."

The union says the GN's latest offer was a four-year deal with a 2 per cent increase in the first and fourth year, and a 1 per cent increase in years two and three. 

The union is asking for a three-­year contract with a 2 to 2.5 per cent raise in the second and third years of the deal.

Any contract signed will technically start on Jan. 1, 2014, and employees would get retroactive pay based on any raise for the first year.

The union's previous request for bereavement leave on par with the GN's and for the union to be consulted if employees were being affected by work being contracted out have "gone away," said Fennell.

"We're not that far apart," he said. "All the members want is a fair shake. The legislature gave themselves a 3 per cent increase last October, but they're not willing to even consider."

Fennell said workers were ready to go on strike in April once talks broke down, but held off after Pangnirtung's power plant caught fire.

"You can hardly leave people in that situation," Fennell said. "We wanted to make sure their power was up and going."

Qulliq employees provide mechanical, electrical and line maintenance for all power facilities in Nunavut communities, with administrative offices in Baker Lake and Iqaluit and customer service offices in Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay.