No protest at track meet

Jared Monkman/NNSL photo Gayla Thunstrom gives a speech at a BBQ held by the strikers. She spoke about the strike, and declared that negotiations would resume on Monday.

Jared Monkman/NNSL photo
Gayla Thunstrom gives a speech at a BBQ held by the strikers. She spoke about the strike, and declared that negotiations would resume on Monday.

Despite a radio report to the contrary, striking town workers will not be picketing Track and Field Championship events.

“We’re not picketing it,” said first vice president for the Union of Northern workers Gayla Thunstrom. “We are not picketing the track and field meet.”

She said she was surprised to have heard claims that union members would be attempting to impede one of the most popular events in the Hay River calendar after a report by a Yellowknife radio station suggested that was the case. Thunstrom indicated that as far as she knew, there had never been plans to picket the meet..

That is good, if somewhat unsurprising news, for Chamber of Commerce president Joe Melanson, who said the economic activity surrounding track is not the biggest part of the event, but certainly doesn’t hurt the community.

“We were informed that they would not be picketing track,” he told The Hub last week. “The economic benefit of track is great. It opens up the door to our hospitality industry, for sure, but also to a lot of small stores and businesses… for a lot of the kids who come here from small communities, this is like the big city.”

Although children participating stay in the schools with their chaperones, Melanson said in his experience, a lot of parents also make the trek from around the territory to see their children compete. It’s nearly impossible to find accommodation during track unless booked months in advance.

“But it’s not all about money,” he said.

The event welcomes over 500 athletes from across the North, some of whom only get to see each other once a year for the meet.

“It’s great to see an event that is open to all levels and ages. It’s a really positive thing for our community.”

Last week Mayor Andrew Cassidy recently ruffled the union’s feathers when he announced that the town would be hiring contract workers to maintain outdoor parks in the community over the summer.

A member of the union responded by saying that hiring contract workers would only serve to prolong the strike, which has been ongoing since Feb. 9.

Negotiations between the town and the union were expected to resume on Monday.

–Sarah Ladik