Negotiators for N.W.T. shipyard workers reach tentative deal, averting job action

·3 min read
The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, which represents about 80 shoreworkers work in Hay River, N.W.T., reached a tentative deal with Offshore Recruiting Services Inc. (NTCL - image credit)
The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, which represents about 80 shoreworkers work in Hay River, N.W.T., reached a tentative deal with Offshore Recruiting Services Inc. (NTCL - image credit)

A tentative deal has been reached between the union representing about 80 shoreworkers working in Hay River, N.W.T. and Offshore Recruiting Services Inc., after talks had seemed to reach an impasse earlier in the week.

"I'm very happy to share that a tentative agreement has been reached," said Lorraine Rousseau, North regional executive vice president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), which is affiliated with the shoreworkers' union, the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UCTE).

Earlier this week, the affected shoreworkers who run the Mackenzie River supply chain were considering job action when Offshore Recruiting Services Inc. became non-responsive to the employees' demands, such as inflation-based wage increases, Rousseau said.

More than 40 of those workers live in the North year-round and fulfil the Marine Transportation Services shipyard contract in Hay River, she said.

"Any job action that would have been taken wouldn't just affect the members of the union or the corporation, it affects the citizens of that community," said Rousseau.

Offshore Recruiting Services' "unrealistic consumer price Index calculations" brought the talks to an "impasse" until a last-ditch conciliation meeting on Wednesday that produced the tentative agreement, said Rousseau.

Workers must still ratify the agreement. If they do, the agreement will be in effect until 2024 and include annual increases that "protect members from the high cost of living in the North."

There are also changes to the agreement around vacation allowances, said Rousseau.

Earlier this week, the PSAC representing the UCTE in Hay River called on the territorial government to intervene in stagnating discussions.

The union argued Offshore Recruiting Services should ask the territorial government for more money to settle the contract dispute.

The company is fulfilling a contract that exists because the Northern Transportation Company Ltd. went bankrupt in 2016. In December 2016, the N.W.T. government took over its assets — 12 ships, 72 barges, a shipyard in Hay River — but indicated it would partner with a private entity to keep operations running.

NTCL
NTCL

It's not clear what action, if any, the territorial government took when negotiations came to a stalemate this week.

In an email, Infrastructure department spokesperson Darren Campbell said the territorial government "understands that progress is being made on this issue" but that it would not comment on collective bargaining between Public Service Alliance of Canada and Offshore Recruiting

Asked whether the territorial government has concerns about the company's ability to continue service delivery to communities, Campbell said the government "will not speculate on the possibility of potential future impacts to program delivery."

He added, the annual marine program delivery of fuel and freight to communities was completed successfully and without incident in 2021.

In December 2020, the government said that when Offshore Recruiting Services took over the contract, the contractor would "respect the terms and conditions of employment in good faith with the Union."

Rousseau said the most recent negotiations, which took months, will be considered when the parties come back to the table in 2024.

"We do bear in mind when we go into the next round of bargaining … that we do recall what is going on now and what we had to go through to get there," she said.

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