Union president happy with new collective agreement

The president of the Yukon Employees’ Union says he’s happy with the new collective agreement with the Yukon government the union ratified last week.

The president of the Yukon Employees’ Union says he’s happy with the new collective agreement with the Yukon government the union ratified last week.

“It wasn’t the easiest negotiation,” Steve Geick told the News on Tuesday. “But with the help of a mediator we got to what I consider a good deal for the members.”

The new deal, which covers 3,726 Yukon government employees across the territory, includes a two per cent salary increase for 2016, followed by 1.5 per cent increases in 2017 and in 2018.

The agreement will be effective Aug. 1, and expires Jan. 1, 2018.

It is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2016, with employees getting the retroactive pay increase in September.

For workers not covered by the collective agreement, like those in management positions, pay increases usually follow what the union gets, according to the Public Service Commission.

One of the major gains from the new collective agreement is the addition of community nurses for Destruction Bay and Beaver Creek, Geick said.

“The health and safety issues were huge.”

Now health centres in both communities will be staffed with two nurses from April to September.

Because of road work and tourism, that’s when demand is at its highest for nurses, Geick explained.

The rest of the time there will be one nurse in each community, with a third one alternating between the two every four weeks.

That third position will allow nurses to do health promotion campaigns, Geick said.

The nursing measure was the union’s top priority.

“We made it clear we weren’t leaving the bargaining table until we got something,” he said.

But a lot of the demands that were released by YEU in January didn’t make it into the collective agreement.

At the time, the union was asking for a whistleblowing clause to be added in the agreement, a more generous maternity leave policy and a social justice fund to finance humanitarian projects.

“That’s just part of negotiation,” Geick said. “That original draft that was everything the committee identified.”

Back in September 2015 the union had a bargaining input meeting, with delegates that represent union members narrowing down the final list of demands from the original 200 to 300 the membership had drafted.

Another gain Geick highlighted was the increase to two dollars from $1.50 per hour for auxiliary on-call workers’ premiums.

In lieu of health benefits and pensions, auxiliary on-call workers get an added hourly premium to their paycheque.

Geick said it had been a long time since the premium had increased.

The last increase, from $1.25 to $1.50, happened in 2000, the Public Service Commission told the News.

The new collective agreement also provides for an increase in vision care, $300 every two years, an increase from $200.

Finally, the definition of family was removed from the clause governing special leaves.

That’s because it was too restrictive, Geick said.

It could, for example, prevent a worker who was raised by an aunt from using that leave time in case of that person’s death.

The union also represents a large number of First Nation workers, Geick said.

“Traditionally the extended family is important (in First Nation culture),” he said. “They would be able to use special leave to do that (attend a relative’s funeral).”

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com.

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