March 1, 2017
Submitted by: Todd Parsons
Union of Northern Workers, President
UNW opposes GNWT budget
With less than three weeks to go, the Union of Northern Workers remains resolute that the proposed 2017-18 GNWT budget is a bad one for workers. In recent weeks our members have been taking part in rallies in Fort Smith, at the Legislative Assembly, and in front of the Yellowknife Fire Hall. We have been trying to draw the public’s attention to the fact that the needs of northern people are not being met by the government’s spending cuts which are leading to program and service losses.
First and foremost is the possibility that 65 jobs could be eliminated on top of the cuts that already took place last budget. There seems to be an attitude by the GNWT that this many jobs are expendable and that our members should just suck it up so that Cabinet can meet a specific fiscal strategy. At the same time, the government appears determined to build new roads and bridges as quickly as possible and feels it can go out and purchase bankrupt shipping companies like NTCL or mineral operations like Mactung. For this main display of hypocrisy, we are drawing a line in the sand and saying no to any and all cuts.
Second, we are not convinced that the reasons being given by the GNWT as to why these positions are being cut will ultimately serve the Northern economy. The UNW has remained on the record that infrastructure stimulus is beneficial. Construction jobs and training opportunities are great – not to mention the opening of isolated parts of the North. But these temporary, limited jobs should not be created at the expense of good, permanent jobs belonging to our members. Government jobs feed the private sector, strengthen community, and attract outsiders to come North.
As a member rightly pointed out: Investment in infrastructure is usually a way of creating jobs for a troubled economy, not cutting them back. If they’re simultaneously reducing GNWT positions it indicates an overall lack of confidence in the plan to bring in more mining jobs and tax revenue.
Third, like eight of the 11 regular MLAs who are in opposition, we do not support a budget when consultation and compromise has been so poor from the government. Aurora College students, teachers, and local women’s groups have vocalized similar complaints after being ambushed with the announcement that social work and education programs will be eliminated.
This is now the second budget that has left our workers, at best, unacknowledged. We are now approaching a full year where the GNWT has not offered any compromise on its position in collective bargaining and it reflects a rigid and close-minded attitude.
The Budget Address, in our opinion, did not offer any signal to our members that the GNWT is prioritizing the protection of our jobs, addressing increasing cost of living pressures, or building on the North as being an attractive place to live and work. So much for “employer of choice.”
So during the final weeks of this session we want to send a very clear message to the GNWT: serious revisions need to be done to this budget!