North

N.W.T. gov't rejects offer of binding arbitration in contract talks, says union

The territorial government has refused an offer from the Union of Northern Workers (UNW) to agree to binding arbitration to settle labour negotiations with the government and Northwest Territories Power Corporation, according to a press release from the UNW.

Territorial gov't and union have been trying to settle on collective bargaining agreement for 3 years

UNW president Todd Parsons says the territorial government 'refused to even agree to a fair process that could help us reach a fair deal.' (Michael Hugall/CBC)

The territorial government has refused an offer from the Union of Northern Workers (UNW) to agree to binding arbitration, according to a press release from the UNW. 

The proposed binding arbitration would have been used to settle labour negotiations with both territorial government and Northwest Territories Power Corporation employees, according to the release.

Binding arbitration is a process in which both sides in a dispute — in this case, the UNW and territorial government — submit their arguments to a neutral third party. That third party would then decide on a fair outcome, which would be binding.

The territorial government and union have been trying to settle on a collective bargaining agreement for three years.

"For over three years, our members have been working hard, making compromises and trying to reach a fair deal," said UNW president Todd Parsons in the release. "Unfortunately, the government said no."

The release says talks between the government and bargaining units at the territorial government and power corporation broke down. It says this is because the territorial government wouldn't budge on key issues and rejected the offer of binding arbitration.

"If the government was serious about fixing this situation and settling this dispute they could do so today, right now, and simply agree to Binding Arbitration," said Parsons in the release.

"Unfortunately, the government has refused to even agree to a fair process that could help us reach a fair deal."

Door 'still open'

In the release, Parsons called the territorial government "dishonest" and "unaccountable."

The UNW says that even though binding arbitration poses a risk to both parties, it is willing to take the risk because the bargaining has dragged on.

"The door is still open. We can take the risk and the reward together and end this right now," said Parsons in the release. "This is a sacrifice for our members but it's worth it if we can end this dispute, avoid a strike, and ensure a fair deal."

Todd Sasaki, senior communications officer for the territory's Department of Finance, said in an email that the parties held mediation talks in October, and there will be another talk Feb. 8 to 9. 

Sasaki wrote the government will attend the meeting "with the sole goal of concluding a new collective agreement." 

He wrote that if the parties can't come to an agreement at mediation, then they should jointly request the mediator "provide the parties with recommendations to resolve the outstanding issues." 

Parsons was not available for an interview Tuesday afternoon. 

Representatives with the Northwest Territories Power Corporation were not immediately available for comment. 

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