Yukon government workers to vote on collective bargaining deal

Unionized Yukon government employees will vote on a new collective bargaining agreement on July 10.

Unionized Yukon government employees will vote on a new collective bargaining agreement on July 10.

On Wednesday the government and the Yukon Employees’ Union announced that a tentative deal had been reached, but that they couldn’t comment about details before both have ratified it.

“The bargaining team will be unanimously recommending acceptance,” said Steve Geick, YEU’s president.

Negotiation on the agreement started last November.

The previous collective agreement came into force back in 2013 and expired on Dec. 31, 2015.

On the union side, the support of a simple majority of employees who have voted is required for ratification. The proposed deal concerns 3,726 employees across the territory.

On the government side, the management board – comprised of the Yukon Party cabinet – will decide whether to accept the deal or not. Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski chairs the board.

Were the agreement to be ratified, the government would have 60 days to implement the collective agreement.

On April 29, the YEU indicated on its website that a mediator had been appointed. “While significant progress was made on a number of issues, the parties remain far apart on key proposals affecting the safety and health of Yukoners and our members,” the union wrote at the time.

Another reason negotiations have been ongoing for the past six months is that both parties rely on negotiators from the Outside who have to periodically fly in, Geick told the News.

The union announced there will be information sessions across the territory in the coming weeks. “We have to go to every community in the Yukon,” said Geick.

Back in January, the YEU released a list of demands it had that were part of the negotiation.

The union was seeking to add a whistleblowing clause to protect employees who disclose potential wrongdoings from reprisal.

The territory implemented its own whistleblowing legislation last year, but Geick called it “weak.”

“It’s a start (but) there needs to be more done to it,” he said.

The union was also seeking to expand the length of maternity leave from 37 to 52 weeks.

The proposal also called to lower the requirement for a paid maternity leave allowance.

Under the proposal, an employee would only be required to have six months of continuous employment, instead of a year, to be eligible for the allowance.

It was also seeking to have a social justice fund created.

The government would contribute one cent per hour worked for every unionized employee to that fund.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, YEU’s umbrella union, would handle the money and decide what causes to fund.

PSAC has been handling a similar fund from other unions for at least the past 10 years, Geick explained.

“We do a lot of things with it – it goes towards anti-poverty initiatives, housing initiatives,” he said.

“We’ve done a lot of work in South America and Africa.”

Under the labour code, once both parties have exchanged their bargaining proposals, no further demands can be added. However, during negotiations each side can lower their demands to reach an agreement.

That means that the bargaining proposal is only a starting point, not necessarily what was negotiated, Geick said.

A year ago the union reached out to its members to know what their demands were.

“We get anywhere from 200 to 300 demands coming in,” Geick said.

At a bargaining input meeting 50 to 80 people who represent all the unionized employees meet and discuss

how to narrow down the list of demands.

“They’re the ones that decided what we’re taking to the bargaining table – they set the priorities,” said Geick.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at

pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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