In the latest salvo in the ongoing municipal strike, union leaders are threatening to picket the upcoming NWT Association of Communities meeting in May, an event that typically draws approximately 100 people to town.
“Regardless where it is held in the Town of Hay River, we will picket it,” Union of Northern Workers president Todd Parsons told The Hub last week. “Even if they try to host it at the K’atlodeeche First Nation, we still have a legal right to picket work that would normally be done by our members.”
The NWT Association of Communities hosted its annual general assembly in Hay River in 2013, bringing a few hundred people to the community for the event. Last time, it was hosted in the Don Stewart Recreation Centre. This year, as a result of the strike, the town planned to move the conference to a privately-owned location, but the union has said they will follow wherever the assembly is hosted.
“It’s not just the town facilities,” said Parsons. “The town also said they would provide logistics, like setting up chairs and tables, cleaning and other support. It’s easy for us to establish that would have been done by our members.”
As for the association of communities, CEO Sara Brown said the organization is still monitoring the situation.
“We’re not taking a position. We just want to host our meeting,” she told The Hub. “We hope they get it resolved.”
Brown also said the association has received questions from other municipalities whose representatives are concerned with what to do if faced with a picket line. Other municipal workers across the territory are also UNW members.
“I think that it’s unfortunate the union is going to try to put pressure on town council through organizations that have nothing to do with the ongoing labour dispute,” said Mayor Andrew Cassidy. “They’ve accused us of not wanting to negotiate, but clearly they just want to cause maximum disruptions.”
Cassidy also said that while the town has made an offer, the union’s bargaining team have yet to make a formal counter-offer.
“They have hit the business community as hard as they could thus far,” he said. “For them to go after other events that aren’t necessarily taking place in town facilities is something else.”
Cassidy told The Hub the union also plans to picket the upcoming Arctic Winter Games signing at the end of April, a plan Parsons confirmed.
“It’s not very becoming of a group that’s trying to say it’s an integral part of the community to be trying to shut down economic opportunities that don’t really relate to the town or the labour dispute,” said Cassidy.
Parsons, however, said that the recently-announced successful South Slave bid for the games was very much the purview of the municipality.
“If any signing for the Arctic Winter Games occurs in the town of Hay River, we will have active picket lines,” he said. “We will picket any activities that the mayor and council will be involved in. If they were to attend Lobsterfest, we would be picketing that too.”