The Town of Hay River and its unionized workers have both ratified a new contract.
The workers, represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC)/Union of Northern Workers (UNW), approved the contract on Sept. 17.
The town ratified the deal on Sept. 22 in a vote by council.
The five-year agreement – which covers the period from Jan. 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2024 – was reached following negotiations from Sept. 8 to Sept. 11.
It provides a wage increase totalling 7.5 per cent over the life of the contract.
Jack Bourassa, the regional executive vice-president for PSAC, noted the previous contract was for three years, and a five-year agreement is not the norm.
“It does make it easier on all the little towns across the North if they can arrange for a collective agreement that goes a little bit longer than the norm because it allows them financial forecasting,” he said. “So they can better plan because they know what their expenses are going to be far in advance. It does help them out.”
Bourassa is pleased overall with the contract.
“It’s something that works out well for everyone,” he said. “It’s kind of a win-win-win scenario.”
Aside from helping the town with financial forecasting, the membership has some assurances and stability in their lives, he said. “And of course the community benefits. I mean if everybody is making money, everybody is spending money, the community does well.”
Bourassa noted that the contract covers just over 30 permanent employees and between 10 and 20 casual workers, depending on the time of year.
They work in all aspects of town operations, including recreation, public works, water treatment, administration, finance and tourism.
Bourassa said minor things were tweaked in the contract, such as parental leave benefits, medical travel leave, and rules and language on the use of casual employees.
Glenn Smith, the senior administrative officer (SAO) with the Town of Hay River, said he is also “definitely” pleased an agreement was reached and ratified.
“It’s a process that generally both groups don’t look forward to going through, but it went really smoothly,” he said. “I think we had a fair and equitable agreement for both sides. So we considered the current economic realities that are facing all of us in terms of employment and the economy.”
Smith said the 7.5 per cent total wage increase over five years varies from .5 per cent in the first year to two per cent in the final year.
The SAO said the town is very happy to have a five-year agreement.
“They are historically rare, but it reduces overall your life cycle costs associated with an agreement, most notably your legal expenses,” he said.
A five-year deal is also good for the morale of an organization, Smith noted. “You can work on your culture and improvement through that. It really allows both sides to focus on operations for a longer term, as opposed to having to deal with the uncertainties of collective bargaining.”
The last two agreements between the town and its unionized workers were for three years.
Smith noted the latest agreement includes a new job evaluation system, domestic abuse leave and a mental health day that can be requested once a year by an employee.
The UNW is part of PSAC, which is responsible for negotiating for the town employees.