Six Nunavut Housing Corporation staff members are replacing directors on the Iqaluit Housing Authority board, in a shakeup announced Friday morning.
The changes to the board are temporary and aimed at addressing the ongoing labour dispute with the Nunavut Employees Union (NEU), stated Lorne Kusugak, the minister responsible for the Nunavut Housing Corp (NHC), in a July 28 news release.
Eiryn Devereaux and Juanie Pudluk will now serve as chair and vice-chair of the Iqaluit Housing Authority (IHA) board, respectively, with Eetuk Groves, Jazmyne Perkins, Jimmy Main and Danio Penuliar also joining.
“The new board’s immediate focus will be to return to the bargaining table to achieve a settlement to the IHA labour dispute,” said Kusugak. “I have asked the new board to ensure, within the next 90 days, that it stabilize operations at the IHA and then immediately initiate a process to seek out a new board of non-NHC staff.”
The ongoing labour dispute began on March 17, when 13 IHA employees, members of the NEU, walked off the job in hopes of securing better wages and working conditions.
NEU and IHA representatives last met on July 21 in Ottawa, 124 days into the dispute. It was the first time the parties met in person, but no real progress was made during the meeting.
“The union presented a reasonable path for reaching a tentative agreement,” the NEU said in a news release following the meeting. “This path represented a significant movement of the union bargaining team in an effort to reach a deal. The IHA representative refused it, offering on a slight wage increase in a future year that does not even come close to addressing the current or future economic reality of working and living in Nunavut.”
The news release noted that NEU representatives were “profoundly disappointed” by the results of the meeting.
To date, NHC has not been involved in the bargaining process with the NEU on any level. The hope is that adding NHC staff to the IHA board will expedite the resolution of the dispute.
“NHC recognizes the challenges and pressures over the past months relative to the labour dispute between the Iqaluit Housing Authority and the Nunavut Employees Union, and the impact it has had on all individuals, including employees, management, the board and tenants,” Kusugak said. “We are looking forward to resolving this labour dispute as soon as possible.”
Shortly after Kusugak’s announcement, the NEU issued a news release stating that workers from the IHA are “encouraged” by this turn of events.
“We believe that today’s development is a good sign, but the proof will be in what happens at the table,” said NEU President Jason Rochon. “We’ll be there in good faith because we believe there is a path forward. We want to reach a fair agreement as quickly as possible.”