The president of the Union of Northern Workers (UNW) is warning there may be a strike next month against the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority.
“I’d say there’s a high risk of a strike sometime mid-February,” said Todd Parsons in comments to Hay River Hub prior to Christmas.
Parsons’ warning came just after the union’s bargaining team issued a negotiations update to members of the bargaining unit.
latest contract talks held with the assistance of a federal conciliator on Dec. 11 and Dec. 12 failed to reach an agreement between the union side, which includes the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority (HRHSSA).
In the update, Parsons, who attended the talks with the elected bargaining team, said they are “more than disappointed” that HRHSSA is not taking the collective bargaining process seriously.”The employer’s tone at the bargaining table was disrespectful and insulting,” he said. “After 18 months of negotiations, HRHSSA still has serious concessions on the table, and still wants to force two years of zero wage increases on its hardworking staff while offering very little in return.”
The union said the authority has offered less than a four per cent wage increase over a proposed four-year deal.
The two sides have not yet reached an essential services agreement, although it will be discussed in early January.
In his comments to The Hub, Parsons said the unionized workers would be in a legal strike position after an essential services agreement is concluded.
A strike vote has not yet been held.
Parsons noted that federal mediation is a possibility in early February after a strike vote.
The UNW represents about 200 employees at the authority.
“The Hay River Health and Social Services Authority remains prepared to return to the bargaining table with the UNW at any time,” said Erin Griffiths, CEO of the organization. Griffiths declined to offer further comment.
Parsons said the authority has taken a “hard-nosed position” in negotiations to replace an expired contract and is trying to entice a strike, noting the employer has rejected arbitration.
Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson has written Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod to express concerns about the negotiations that he has heard from community residents.
“Public confidence in the government’s ability to find a solution is waning, and fears of a strike are growing,” Simpson wrote in the Dec. 19 letter, which he posted on Facebook. “In light of this, I am once again asking you and your cabinet colleagues to help bring these negotiations to an end by getting back to the bargaining table with a revised mandate and negotiating strategy that will allow for a deal to be struck.”
Simpson noted the uncertainty has caused a drop in consumer confidence which resulted in lower than expected sales during the holiday season for private businesses, and charities finding it more difficult to raise money.
“The increasing likelihood of a strike is also increasing trepidation among companies that provide goods and services to the government,” the MLA wrote. “Many businesses are fighting to keep their doors open and keep people employed, and reduced sales or the loss of a revenue stream could be their last straw.”