NEWS: Nunavut May 10, 2012 - 12:07 pm

Nunavut power workers to vote on tentative wage-benefit deal

“This is the best agreement that can be obtained”

NUNATSIAQ NEWS

Unionized workers at the Qulliq Power Corp. will start voting May 14 on a tentative new wage-benefit deal that gives them an effective wage increase of 4.5 per cent on the date of ratification, plus a signing bonus of $1,100.

In a message posted on the website of the Nunavut Employees Union, union officials recommend workers vote yes to the deal.

“Your bargaining team believes that this is the best agreement that can be obtained for the members at this time, and believe that accepting it is preferable to going on strike,” NEU officials said.

The union said that if workers reject the deal, they will have no choice but to call a strike.

“There is no further possibility of negotiating improvements — the members will be asked to vote on whether they want to accept the agreement, or whether they want to go on strike,” the union said.

Unionized workers at the QEC have been in a legal strike position since December 2011, when the union announced 89 per cent of QEC workers who cast ballots had voted in favour of a strike.

At the time, union negotiators demanded 5 per cent wage increases in each year of a new three year contract.

But after a session held this past April with mediator Colin Taylor, the NEU is settling for much less.

The tentative deal, reached April 17, would give workers the following:

• a retroactive wage increase of 2.5 per cent for 2011;

• a wage increase of 2 per cent for 2012; and

• a wage increase of 2 per cent for 2013.

Because the 2011 wage increase is retroactive, acceptance of this new contract would effectively give workers a 4.5 per cent wage increase, the union said.

Workers would also get a signing bonus of $1,100. The union said this is roughly equal to a 2 per cent increase in the location allowance, which will not increase.

The union also partly gave in on the issue of bankable overtime hours.

Employees at the QEC may still bank up to 21 days of overtime, but they won’t be allowed to “refill” that bank once it’s used.

“Once you reach 21 days, all further overtime will be paid in cash,” the union said.

The union will hold ratification meetings, and votes, at the following dates and locations:

• Iqaluit: May 14, Hotel Arctic conference room, 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.;

• Rankin Inlet: May 16, Siniktarvik Hotel conference room, 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.; and,

• Cambridge Bay: May 22, Arctic Island Lodge, 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m..

The NEU’s last collective agreement with the power corporation expired in December 2010. The union represents about 140 QEC workers.

The NEU’s other big collective agreement, with the Government of Nunavut, covers all other territorial government workers in the territory.

Those talks are still stalled, but the union is not yet in a legal strike position.

That’s because the NEU and the GN have not been able to reach an agreement on the provision of essential services during a strike.

In a message posted on the NEU website, the union said if the two sides can’t reach an agreement on essential services, the issue may have to go to arbitration, which would delay contract talks even further. Those talks started in March 2010.

The last GN collective agreement expired in September 2010.