City, union return to court Friday over Yellowknife strike injunction
The city of Yellowknife and the Public Service Alliance of Canada were back in court Thursday to argue whether an injunction that imposed restrictions on how long picketers are allowed to stop vehicles is necessary.
The city argued for a stricter injunction, while the union asked for a civil agreement on strike line protocols instead of an injunction.
Michael Fisher, the union's lawyer, argued that an injunction was not necessary because the union has internal mechanisms that it says are effective to enforce picketing guidelines.
The injunction was granted in on Feb. 14, but was subsequently modified. Fisher said that since the city and the union decided on a picketing protocol on Feb. 22, there have been no issues with picketers detaining vehicles too long.
He also said that an injunction is a "blunt instrument" and that the judge should give the parties an opportunity to resolve conflicts related to picketing among themselves before intervening.
He proposed that instead of an injunction, the city and the union enter into a civil contract related to picketing protocol to enforce vehicle stoppage restrictions and said that both parties would have the option to apply for an expedited hearing to get a new injunction if there were issues with the civil contract.
Christopher Lane, the lawyer for the city, argued that an injunction was necessary, and argued that more strict restrictions on picketing were warranted.
The current injunction restricts picketers to stopping vehicles that cross the picket line for a maximum of four minutes a day, and says that the maximum total delay for a queue of cars is 15 minutes.
The city's proposal would restrict the amount of time any car can be stopped to two minutes a day and change the maximum total delay for a queue of cars to 10 minutes. The city also proposed a "driver's exception" where drivers would have an option to request not to be delayed at all by picketers.
In response to Fisher's argument that the picketing protocol was successful, Lane argued that it was the injunction, not the picketing protocol that had effectively limited problems with excessively long vehicle stoppages, and said that he believed that if the injunction were lifted the problems would begin again.
The City of Yellowknife and the union are scheduled to appear in court again Friday at 10:30 a.m. to give more arguments on this case. Justice Andrew Mahar of the Northwest Territories Supreme Court is presiding.
About 205 unionized city workers have been on strike since Feb. 8. The impasse is largely over wages.