City of Yellowknife staff will strike Wednesday if no deal is reached
Both sides to continue negotiations Monday and Tuesday
The union representing the majority of unionized employees with the City of Yellowknife has given notice that its workers will walk off the job on Feb. 8 if a deal is not reached, the municipality says.
In a press release, the city says it received notice of a strike from the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) North at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
Both sides had agreed to continue mediator-led negotiations on Monday and Tuesday.
"The City remains hopeful that an agreement will be reached in good faith, as bargaining negotiations are set to continue on Monday, February 6th and Tuesday, February 7th," senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett wrote in an email to city staff on Sunday that was obtained by CBC News.
In a joint statement released Sunday, PSAC and the Union of Northern Workers (UNW) said mandatory strike notice of at least 72 hours is legally required.
Two hours after it sent the notice, the unions say they received a response from the city that it would lock out workers on Wednesday if a deal was not reached.
"Workers will not be intimidated by this surprise Lock-Out notice," PSAC North regional executive vice-president Lorraine Rousseau said in the written statement.
"Though the Union followed process and served notice to be in a legal strike position February 8, the parties still had the option to extend mediation and avoid labour disruption if the mediation was productive, which was the hope of the bargaining team," UNW President Gayla Thunstrom said in the statement.
"I am really disappointed that the bullying and intimidation from the employer has escalated, but it shows what city workers have been dealing with."
No one from the city was immediately available to comment.
City facilities to close
An email sent to city staff last month from Bassi-Kellett says the city is offering an annual salary increase of two per cent. The union has not made its demands public but has said workers deserve a higher salary increase that reflects the rise in inflation and the high cost of living in the capital.
If workers strike, the city says it will close municipal facilities including the Yellowknife Public Library, Multiplex, Fieldhouse, Ruth Inch Memorial Pool, Yellowknife Community Arena and the Visitor Information Centre.
Garbage disposal will continue but on a weekly pickup schedule. Compost bins will not be collected and the recycling stations set up across the city will also not be available. The Yellowknife Solid Waste Facility will also close to the public.
The city says all non-essential snow and ice clearing will be cancelled.
Public safety services like the Yellowknife Fire Department will still continue to operate.
Months-long labour dispute
The city and the PSAC have been without a collective agreement since Dec. 31, 2021. The parties left the table in December 2022, when negotiations aided by a federally appointed mediator failed to produce a deal.
Since then, the labour dispute has grown increasingly intense, with the unions accusing the city of acting in bad faith and attempting to circumvent the collective bargaining process. The city maintains it's committed to the bargaining process and the negotiation of a collective agreement.
Then last month, members of PSAC Local X0345 voted in favour of going on strike. The unions have not said how many members voted for or against the job action.
With files from Sidney Cohen