Workers at Many Rivers Counselling in Whitehorse have been without a contract for over a year. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News)

Twelve months and a strike: Many Rivers workers serve strike notice

Job action is set to start Friday afternoon, when workers will walk off the job

Workers at Many Rivers Counselling served strike notice Oct. 30 after a day of conciliation talks resolved nothing.

Jack Bourassa, regional executive vice-president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada, had been optimistic about negotiations on Oct. 29.

He told the News then that, following a meeting in September, the mediator had felt that there was movement during talks. Bourassa said the mediator had invited both parties back to the table, thinking they could reach a deal this month.

Bourassa had said some of the points of negotiation included “housekeeping items” in the collective agreement and modest pay increases, as well as scheduling issues and the contracting out of some work, “which is something of a faux-pas.”

In an interview Oct. 31, Steve Geick, president of the Yukon Employees’ Union, said both sides did move a little on issues, but not enough to reach a deal.

He said one of the biggest issues is surrounding hours of work. Right now, he said, employees are working on what’s considered an “averaging hours agreement” which allows for employees to have flex time, to work after-hours, or come in early.

“In a normal world you would get overtime (pay), but by holding on to this … you’re kind of abusing what the intent of an averaging hours agreement is by denying rightful overtime,” he said.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada served strike notice with the Canada Industrial Relations Board on behalf of Many Rivers.

Job action is set to begin at 4 p.m. on Nov. 2, which means staff will walk off the job. There will be no rotating strikes, Geick said. They are simply off the job.

Geick said the union is open to renewed talks this week before the strike.

At this point, negotiations have spanned more than 12 months.

In August, employees demonstrated outside the High Country Inn, standing with placards to show their commitment to the cause.

The union represents 18 counsellors and administrative staff with Many Rivers in Whitehorse, Dawson City, Watson Lake and Haines Junction.

They have been working without a contract for over a year.

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

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