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On verge of strike vote, Yukon government reaches tentative agreement with employees' union

The Yukon government building in Whitehorse in 2016. On Friday, the territorial government and the Yukon Employees Union, which represents more than 3,500 government workers, reached a tentative agreement after more than a year and a half of bargaining.  (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC - image credit)
The Yukon government building in Whitehorse in 2016. On Friday, the territorial government and the Yukon Employees Union, which represents more than 3,500 government workers, reached a tentative agreement after more than a year and a half of bargaining. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC - image credit)

After more than a year of collective bargaining, and just weeks before a scheduled strike vote, the Yukon government and its unionized employees have reached a tentative agreement.

What exactly is in the deal is still unclear.

But the Yukon Employees Union (YEU), which represents over 3,500 government workers, has been consistent in its demands. In its May newsletter, the union highlighted two sticking points during negotiations: it wanted the government to increase wages to match inflation, and to ensure severance for workers isn't frozen.

The union was asking for wage increases of 4.5 per cent over the next year, then three per cent increases over the two following years.

"I can't get into details of what's in there yet," union president Steve Geick said Friday, about the tentative deal.

"Our bargaining team is 100 per cent in favour of this and recommending to the membership that it is a good deal. So you can infer whatever you want from that."

Both sides still need to ratify the deal.

Geick said members will vote on that in early June — the same time they were originally planning a strike vote. He says he's optimistic it won't come to that now, but should either side choose not to ratify the deal, a strike could be back on the table.

Philippe Morin/CBC
Philippe Morin/CBC

The first union meeting to ratify the deal is scheduled in Whitehorse for May 30. The last is June 5.

The deal was reached Friday morning after both sides accepted recommendations from a conciliation board that formed after talks stalled in January. The board, which included one member from each side and a neutral chair, provided its report this morning.

The Yukon government says it won't talk about the report or what's in the tentative agreement until it's ratified, though Premier Ranj Pillai provided a brief comment in a news release on Friday.

"I am pleased that we have reached a tentative agreement that recognizes the hard work of employees as well as our government's fiscal responsibility to Yukoners," he said. "Thank you to Yukon government employees for their patience as we worked through what was a particularly long round of collective bargaining."

The two sides began negotiations in the fall of 2021, but were unable to reach a deal by the time the last collective agreement expired on Dec. 31 of that year.