Skip to main content

About the UNW

The Mission of the Union of Northern Workers is to inspire, engage and empower workers and community through quality education, effective representation, model public and political action.  

What we do

The UNW is the largest union in the Northwest Territories. Its 7,000+ members are employed in the Government of the Northwest Territories, NWT Power Corporation, at the Ekati Diamond Mine, in municipal governments, housing authorities and private contracting firms.  

The UNW is a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and is part of the PSAC North region.

The UNW provides direct service to its members, representing them in job appeals, grievances and everyday workplace issues. The UNW also prepares bargaining demands for contract negotiations.

UNW Service Officers help ensure that the terms and conditions are enforced for each of the Collective Agreements that apply to our UNW members.

The Union of Northern Workers is led by its Executive, which governs the UNW between conventions.

The Executive consists of a President, 1st Vice-President and 2nd Vice-President (who are referred to as "table officers"), seven Regional Vice Presidents, and an Equity Vice President. They are elected at the UNW Triennial Convention which is held every third year.

It is at Convention where delegates meet to decide issues of policy and set the direction for the UNW.

There are seven Regions in the UNW. Each has an elected Regional Vice President chosen by the Region's members. Regional Vice Presidents are the political representatives in the Regions and are members of the UNW Executive.

Because of the UNW's priority of furthering the rights of Equity group members -- who often face barriers in the workplace -- an Equity Vice President is elected and sits as a full member of the UNW Executive. 

The term of office for RVPs and the EVP is three years. Election results are announced at the UNW Triennial Convention.

There are 28 Locals in the UNW. Members are assigned to a Local according to the bargaining unit to which they belong, or the Department and Community where they work. A group of Locals within a geographic, political, or economic area makes up a Region.

UNW Organizational chart

Members have direct access to the Union's decision making process through their Local. Members can take part in union programs, receive education, draft and vote on recommendations taken to Conventions. Members can also be elected to Local, Regional and UNW Executives.

Locals also elect delegates from amongst their membership to attend the UNW’s Triennial Conventions.

Each Local has an elected volunteer Executive, which oversees the operational and administrative functions of each Local.

The Bylaws of the UNW are the rules under which the Union operates. Bylaws are adopted and/or amended at the UNW Convention, which takes place every three years. Changes to the bylaws are brought forward to convention by submitting resolutions. The Bylaws also give authority to the Executive to set the Regulations governing Union policy and operations.

The UNW is a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). No bylaws or regulations can contravene the PSAC Constitution. The PSAC Constitution is adopted and/or amended at the PSAC National Convention every three years.  

The UNW Bylaws and Regulations, along with the PSAC Constitution, are available on our Publications and Forms page.

The Union of Northern Workers came into existence in 1969 as the union organizing employees of the new Territorial Government.

When the Government of the Northwest Territories was moved to the new capital of Yellowknife in 1967, the workers who moved to set up the new administration were mainly federal government workers. Accepting employment with the new territorial administration meant they had to give up their membership in the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

But union activists weren’t going to see the territorial public service continue as a workplace without a union. After a year of organizing, collecting union dues by going door to door and from government office to government office, the Commissioner for the NWT, Stuart Hodgson, agreed to recognize the NWT Public Service Association as the bargaining agent for 1,000 GNWT employees. The first Collective Agreement was signed on June 8, 1970 by the Union's first President, Keith McInnis and PSAC National President Claude Edwards. NWT Commissioner Hodgson signed on behalf of the GNWT.

The UNW was created as a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. This means that every UNW member is also a member of the national Union - PSAC. The PSAC provides the UNW and its members specialized services. They do organizing drives, lobby governments at the federal level, provide legal advice, and representation in arbitrations.

In 1988, the GNWT passed the Union of Northern Workers Act which officially changed the name of the organization and recognized the UNW as the bargaining agent for its members working for the GNWT.

Over the years, other employee groups were organized and became part of the UNW. They include Hamlet and Housing Association workers, and a variety of other non GNWT employers. Before Nunavut was created, the UNW represented 7,000 workers in both the eastern and western Arctic. The separation of the two territories reduced the UNW's membership to about 4500 members.

Most recently the diamond workers at the Ekati mine joined the UNW in 2006. The UNW now has 7,000+ members.

Over fifty years since our beginning, we remain a strong, united and powerful voice for the rights of NWT workers.

Unions and labour in Canada have an extensive, proud history in fighting for workers' rights. We must continue to fight to keep those rights, and better the workplace for everyone.

Over 50 years of serving Northerners