Iqaluit Housing Authority announces possible strike

Iqaluit in November 2021. Unionized workers working for Iqaluit's housing authority could be walking out later this week.  (Jane George/CBC - photo credit)

Iqaluit in November 2021. Unionized workers working for Iqaluit’s housing authority could be walking out later this week. (Jane George/CBC – photo credit)

The Nunavut workers’ union has issued a 72-hour strike notice to the Iqaluit housing authority – meaning union members could go on strike as early as Friday.

That is, if the housing authority does not come to the table with an offer that is acceptable and fair from the point of view of the union.

Union President Jason Rochon said the 11-member union had been fighting for a fair wage agreement for over a year. The group aims for better wages, increases in current allowances and no concessions.

“We’re considering an exit…if that’s necessary,” Rochon said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s going to get there, but I’ll probably see us there on Friday.”

He said his members voted “overwhelmingly” in favor of strikes. The union, which is part of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), will not release the results of January’s strike vote, but it said more than 90 percent voted in favor.

The Iqaluit Housing Authority is part of the Nunavut Housing Corporation (NHC) and administers affordable housing and other housing programs in the city. The company is responsible for allocating budgets for all of Nunavut’s housing associations, including employee salaries, according to the union.

The wage offer currently on the table is between 1.25 and 1.5 per cent, according to a union press release, reflecting the NHC’s broader negotiating mandate.

In Iqaluit, inflation was about 3.4 percent last year. Statewide, this was even higher at 5.9 percent, according to Statistics Canada.

Rochon said its members are seeking compensation for the inflationary crisis and higher wages. He wouldn’t say how much raise they’re specifically looking for, but said the current offer isn’t good enough.

Jacqueline McKay/CBC

Jacqueline McKay/CBC

“What they offer are peanuts. So we know elephants are working for peanuts, and we’re talking about humans,” Rochon said. “They deserve to be compensated for their work. The wages being offered now are insulting.”

In a statement Tuesday, the NHC warned of operational repercussions for the Iqaluit housing authority if workers went on strike on Friday.

The Housing Authority is an independent organization that operates the Nunavut Housing Corporation public housing program and manages the corporation’s assets in Iqaluit.

“We would like to emphasize that maintaining service delivery to social housing tenants is a priority,” the statement said.

“[The Iqaluit Housing Authority] has contingency plans in place to ensure critical maintenance services continue to be provided during this time.”

The NHC added that it could not discuss the negotiations between the housing authority and the union but was “confident that the Iqaluit housing authority is committed to finding a respectful and constructive resolution to the dispute”.

Last November, PSAC and the Nunavut Employees Union called on NHC leadership to change the organization’s mandate to improve wages for its employees.

In the event of a workers’ action, Rochon said, its members look to the community for support.

Rochon said the housing authority has a hiring and retention problem, with employees often leaving to find better-paying jobs.

The union also says it is fighting the housing authority’s proposed “concession language” on temporary and casual workers, which the union believes will weaken their protections and lead to “less secure employment”.

The Iqaluit Housing Authority declined an interview.


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