Labour Views column for October 26, 2016, 2016: Show me the money!

By November 1, 2016Labour Views

Submitted by: Todd Parsons
President, Union of Northern Workers


It would be fair to say the sentiment at the Union of Northern Workers these days is one of
disappointment and bafflement.

It is not news that right now we are consulting with our membership after going through
four sessions of negotiations for a new collective agreement with the GNWT.
Aside from some of the anti-bullying language we successfully achieved earlier this year,
the employer has refused to acknowledge or consider what we have sought for our
members.

The biggest monetary ask, for example, is a three-per-cent increase in wages over each of
the next four years.

It has been met with a counter-offer of a zero-per-cent increase over the next two years,
followed by one-per-cent increases in the final two years of the agreement. Recognizing
fuel and gas as part of the Northern Allowance calculation has been mostly ignored.
Mental health supports and consolidation of layoff language have been flatly denied.
Whether the union proposals are reasonable or representative of our general membership
are open for the reader to judge.

What is clear is that by simply saying, “No,” the GNWT leaves no room for compromise.
It’s curious, however, that the GNWT to date has cried poor. Not only did the minister of
finance state in February no serious new investments could be made to the public service
but he went further to say that job cuts and other efficiencies had to be made in order to
invest in infrastructure so as to boost a sluggish economy.

As it turned out, we ended up with a budget surplus of $119 million, which is actually
historically normal.

We were all led to believe by this government that fair improvements to workers’ salaries
and programs had to be sacrificed so the government could reach an infrastructure goal of
$150 million.

Aside from where that figure ever came from, let alone whether such spending is needed,
the government plot thickened last week as we learned that, no, infrastructure spending
should now be cut by 78 per cent over the next four years (“Spending drop questioned,”
Yellowknifer, Oct. 21).

As Frame Lake MLA Kevin O’Reilly pointed out: “What kind of messages are you sending
to the public and regular MLAs when a day or two earlier you’ve talked about the need to
cut programs, services and staff to reach a $150 million target so you can invest in more
infrastructure, but your capital budget doesn’t actually show that investment.”
We concur.

The messaging from the government since the beginning of the year has been all over the
place, while communication from cabinet to union members, regular MLAs and the general
public has been dishonest at worst and altogether absent at best.

Labour Views: Show me the money! (From Yellowknifer, Oct. 26, 2016 pg. 9)