Iqaluit Labour Day BBQ offers big servings of solidarity
NEU-GN ratification vote continues Sept. 4, 5 in Iqaluit
At the Labour Day barbeque held last year at Sylvia Grinnell Park in Iqaluit, organizers rationed hot dogs and hamburgers because of the hordes of people who attended — but not this year.
About 50 people turned out for the Sept. 3 barbeque held by the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Northern Territories Federation of Labour, a day before some members of the Nunavut Employees Union were set to vote on a new collective agreement with the Government of Nunavut.
Despite the lower-than-usual turnout, Geoff Ryan, assistant regional vice-president of PSAC’s northern unit, said the turnout was still good.
“We do this to celebrate unions and what they do for society,” Ryan said.
“You can thank unions for an eight-hour work day instead of a 16-hour work day. A five-day work week instead of seven. Sick leave, pensions, annual vacations, even social things like medicare where the unions were very involved in lobbying the governments to bring those services to Canadians,” he said.
At the event, people wore badges bearing slogans such as “Stephen Harper hates me” and “We are all affected.”
“And that’s what we’re trying to tell people, when cuts to public servants happen, everyone’s impacted,” Ryan said.
One of the participants wearing badges and flipping burgers was Bill Fennell, first vice-president of the Nunavut Employees Union.
Fennell was at the bargaining table this past June when the Government of Nunavut and the unions reached a tentative wage-benefit deal.
But the union must finish conducting a territorial-wide ratification vote, which started earlier this summer, for members covered by the GN collective agreement.
The vote in Iqaluit takes place Sept. 4 and Sept. 5 at the Navigator Inn between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. each evening.
All unionized employees who work for the GN, except teachers and Qulliq Power Corp. workers, are encouraged to attend and cast a ballot.
“They gave us a final offer and we’re looking at a ratification — it’s really hard to say right now which way it will go,” Fennell said.
If members vote to reject the offer, a strike is in the cards, he said.
“We still have to sign off the essential service agreement. Once that’s done, in 48 hours notice, all of Nunavut could be affected because our members could be out on strike,” he said.
If the agreement is ratified, the following pay line increases will come into force, according to information posted on the NEU website:
• effective Oct. 1, 2010: 1.00 per cent;
• effective Oct. 1, 2011: 1.00 per cent;
• effective Oct. 1, 2012: 2.50 per cent; and,
• effective Oct. 1, 2013: 3.00 per cent.
Members will vote on a number of other changes to their collective agreement related to things like annual leave entitlement and hours of work.
All proposed changes in the tentative agreement can be viewed here.
A ratification vote also takes place in Sanikiluaq Sept. 4 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the hamlet council chambers.
About 2,000 unionized GN workers across Nunavut will have voted on the proposed new agreement after the voting exercise is finished.