Yukon government cancels tender after pressure from union

The Yukon government has cancelled a request for proposals for surveying work after being accused of kowtowing to lobbyists. But the union says it's too little, too late.

The Yukon government has cancelled a request for proposals for surveying work after being accused of kowtowing to lobbyists.

But the union says it’s too little, too late.

The issue surrounds a request for proposals that the Department of Community Services issued for the Whistle Bend subdivision. The work was scheduled to begin in May.

Steve Geick, president of the Yukon Employees Union, says a group of four surveyors – seasonal Yukon government employees – were scheduled to be recalled for work this spring.

But instead they were told in January that there was no work to be had.

“We corresponded with the department and with the Public Service Commission and we were assured that there was nothing on the table coming up so they were going to lay these people off,” Geick said.

He estimates that last conversation happened some time in March.

“And then lo and behold this tender pops up, dated April 15.”

Geick said the four seasonal workers have been employed every year for at least the last 10.

They usually get recalled in May, but last year were called in a month earlier because of the workload, he said.

The union claims it has documents, obtained through the Yukon’s information and privacy legislation, that show the Department of Community Services was lobbied by private interests to privatize the job.

But Geick insists he can’t make the documents public because the union has filed a grievance against the Yukon government in this case.

“It could affect the outcome of the grievances if it happened to go to arbitration,” he said.

The grievance will be going directly to the Public Service Commissioner for consideration, Geick said.

On Monday, after the union went public with its concerns, Department of Community Services spokesperson Ben Yu Shott said the controversial tender had been cancelled.

“We were advised that the Yukon Employees Union raised the concern about the tender that was issued by Community Services,” he said.

“That tender has been cancelled. We respect that the union has the duty to ensure the care and consideration regarding the employment of their members. We’re setting up a face-to-face meeting with the union to address their concerns.”

The meeting is scheduled for today. Geick said the cancellation of the tender is “too little, too late.” The union’s grievance will still be moving forward.

“Some of these people, as it was seasonal work, may have already left town, I don’t know,” he said.

The union alleges that the Yukon government violated the collective agreement.

The document says, in part: “regular indeterminate and seasonal employees will not be laid off, or have their hours reduced, as a result of the employer contracting out work.”

Geick said he’s waiting to see what the government suggests to rectify the situation.

“We do have the option of taking it to arbitration if need be, to get a satisfactory result for our members.”

If some of the four contractors are now living outside the territory, the solution may be more complicated than just calling them back to work, he said.

“We’re going to be much more vigilant in policing what tenders the government puts out,” he said.

Geick also raised concerns that the tender stated that the Yukon Fair Wage Schedule was not going to apply to this work.

The schedule outlines what employees should be paid when contractors are working for the government.

Without the schedule, “they can basically pay their employees whatever they want,” Geick said.

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