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GNWT Bargaining Update #3

Government of the Northwest Territories
Jul 09, 2023

Talks between the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Union of Northern Workers for a new Collective Agreement broke off on July 7, 2023 without a deal being reached.

The GNWT and the UNW had been meeting at the bargaining table monthly since March, and the Employer had previously expressed the desire to have a tentative agreement in place before September due to upcoming territorial elections. The last agreement expired at the end of March.

Regrettably, the Employer has refused to address key priorities identified by the Union in any meaningful way, said Gayla Thunstrom, President of the UNW.

In an effort to move ahead productively, the Union significantly reduced its package of proposals during bargaining last week to focus on fair wages; improvements to address the territory’s crumbling health care system; and Reconciliation with Indigenous employees, who represent almost 30 per cent of the Union’s more than 5,100 members who work for the territorial government.

Thunstrom, a former nurse at Stanton Hospital, highlighted the UNW's persistent efforts over the years to collaborate with the GNWT in rectifying the deficiencies in the healthcare system. However, during the negotiations, the Employer failed to present any viable ideas to enhance recruitment and retention besides pushing for an expanded ability to contract more agency health care workers – opening the door to potentially contracting out 2,100 jobs, a red line which Thunstrom said the Union will not cross.

“Over the last couple of years, MLAs at the Legislative Assembly have strongly identified Indigenous recruitment and retention, as well as healthcare recruitment and retention as key issues that need to be addressed,” Thunstrom said.

Although the parties have made some progress on wage improvements needed to address the impact of inflation, “unfortunately, the Employer is only paying lip service to these other very real and important challenges.”

Over the next few months, your UNW Bargaining Team members will be attending regional meetings to meet with members about the outstanding issues and provide more detailed information.

In the meantime, the parties will be discussing the appointment of a mutually-agreed upon mediator. The UNW is willing to return to the table whenever the Employer is ready to drop its demands for concessions and meaningfully address our key priorities.

In solidarity,

Lauraine Armstrong
Cee Bradbury
B. G. (Brad) Brake
Melvin Larocque
Adam Thom
Randy Thompson
Gayla Thunstrom, UNW President
Gail Lem, PSAC Negotiator
Djimy Théodore, PSAC Research Officer
Caitlin Lacey, UNW Political Assistant to the President
Anne Marie Thistle, UNW Director, Member Services