Crystal Schick/Yukon News People on strike from Many Rivers hold up signs and flags along Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse on Nov. 6. The two sides have reached a deal and employees will be back in the office Feb. 7

Updated: Many Rivers workers set to go back to work

Union members voted to ratify a new agreement Jan. 22

Counsellors at Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services will be back to work Feb. 7, after almost three months on the picket line.

Steve Geick, president of the Yukon Employees Union, said the bargaining teams had been meeting since Jan. 17 and came to an agreement after midnight on Jan. 22.

The agreement was voted on and ratified by members of the YEU and Many Rivers at 10 a.m. on Jan. 22.

Eighteen employees in Whitehorse, Dawson City, Haines Junction and Watson Lake had been striking since Nov. 2 after contract negotiations deteriorated. Negotiations had been ongoing. In December, Many Rivers employees held a press conference to say they were having particular trouble negotiating with management around a base salary increase and the issue of flexibility around scheduling clients.

Geick said the two sides landed on a 7.5 per cent increase over the duration of the five-year agreement.

He also said that employees have to be present for a core stretch of hours each day, but were otherwise granted flexibility.

“I believe that was a 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (core hours) kind of thing, but other than that they have the ability now to be more flexible with their hours so they can accommodate clients coming in early, late or running over, that kind of thing.”

Geick said the return to work will be gradual, with administrative staff returning first, followed by counsellors.

He said that, over the course of the strike, employee numbers dropped from 18 to 14.

Two of the missing staffers held casual positions with the outreach van, funding for which went to the Blood Ties Four Directions Centre. Two others were counsellor positions in Watson Lake, where employees had to find other work.

Geick said there will also be a two-day return-to-work session for remaining employees. It will be facilitated by the federal mediation and conciliation service.

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride for everybody,” said Geick, explaining that the session, for both employees and management, will focus on how to get back to the job and be respectful in the workplace in the wake of the strike.

Geick said that in eight years with the YEU, he doesn’t remember having seen a picket line last this long.

“I think they feel pretty good. Mixed emotions. They’ve been on the street for a long time.

“I’m super, super proud of these people. I mean this is not something that happened in their life every day, especially with the type of work they so. They have been rock solid.”

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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