North

N.W.T. gov't workers strike 'will definitely have an impact' on education

Almost every school in the Northwest Territories will be impacted if territorial government employees go on strike Monday morning, according to the N.W.T. Teachers’ Association.

'We don’t want to see our students have a negative impact on their learning,' said Fraser Oliver

Fraser Oliver is president of the Northwest Territories Teachers' Association. He says a strike will 'certainly put an extra strain on the education system.' (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

Almost every school in the Northwest Territories will be impacted if territorial government employees go on strike Monday morning, according to the N.W.T. Teachers' Association.

The Union of Northern Workers (UNW) served strike notice Tuesday afternoon, meaning thousands of N.W.T. government employees could strike if a tentative agreement isn't reached before 12:01 a.m. Monday.

Teachers in the territory won't be joining picketers because they have a separate collective agreement in place until July 2020; however, other UNW employees, from janitors to bus drivers and classroom assistants could soon be missing from the classroom.

"With all those people off work, it will certainly put an extra strain on the education system," said Fraser Oliver, president of the teachers' association. 

"If you take that person out of the classroom setting, that leaves just the teacher alone with maybe 25 to 30 students, some of them which might [need extra help] ... if you're taking that away that will definitely have an impact on the child's learning."

40 of 49 schools affected

The strike could impact 40 of the territory's 49 schools. Every school outside of the territory's capital would be hit by the strike.

In Yellowknife, only one school — École Allain St-Cyr — will be affected. That's because UNW workers at Yellowknife's other schools already have their own collective agreements with their school boards, according to Oliver.

He says the looming strike has teachers concerned.

"Many of our students struggle and we need all the support we can for them," he said.

Oliver says representatives from the UNW, territorial government and school principals met late in 2018 and identified "essential services" needed to keep schools running.

These could include a classroom assistant who is needed to help a student who needs one-on-one support. That person would be deemed an "essential service" and not be able to go on strike.

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