A union arbitrator has ordered the government of the Northwest Territories to come clean on how many relief employees may be functioning as term employees, in contradiction to the collective agreement between the Union of Northern Workers and the government.
But the territorial government is asking the courts to overturn the arbitrator’s decision.
Todd Parsons, president of the Union of Northern Workers, said the dispute is about fairness to employees, and ensuring the government as an employer is adhering to the conditions of its collective agreement with the union.
According to court documents, a relief hospital worker in Inuvik turned up in a routine staffing report to the union last year classified as “term/relief.”
But no such classification or category exists in the collective agreement. An employee hired for a term of four months or more must be hired as such, and is entitled to benefits — including pension, vacation leave and sick leave — not available to relief employees.
According to the collective agreement, government relief workers are meant to be a short-term remedy for staffing shortages. A relief employee is meant to work no more than 21 days in a row, and receives few benefits. In lieu of those benefits, relief workers receive an additional 16 per cent in pay over their base wages.
They are also hired without a best before date. They are available for relief work “indefinitely,” unless they quit or are fired.
“We don’t want to see them [relief workers] hired into categories of employment such as term, when they are working as a relief employee,” Parsons told the CBC.
The government is not supposed to use relief employees, or a number of them, to avoid hiring full-time term workers. Parsons said the union would prefer the government abide by the terms of its collective agreement and hire term workers when they are needed instead of using relief workers.
“We have an agreement with the government … governing how term employees are compensated, and their terms and conditions [of employment],” Parsons said.
“We’re fighting that they are paid within agreed upon terms.”
Gov’t acknowledges one error
In a letter included in the arbitrator’s June 21 written judgment in favour of the union’s position, the government acknowledged the Inuvik…