More than three-and-a-half years after the last deal expired, the Nunavut Employees Union and the Government of Nunavut have arrived at a tentative settlement for a new collective agreement.

The provisional terms were agreed upon as of Feb. 26, the parties announced on Monday.

The previous agreement ran until Sept. 30, 2018 and, despite numerous rounds of negotiations, the sides couldn’t come to an understanding. The union filed a lawsuit against the territorial government in early 2020, accusing the GN of bad faith bargaining.

Increases to Northern allowance and pay rates were among the remaining sticking points heading into negotiations last week.

Both parties must now ratify the new deal. For the union, that means approval by 50 per cent, plus one. Details of the new agreement’s contents will be forthcoming when that happens, according to the territorial government.

NEU president Jason Rochon described the recent negotiations as getting off to a “rocky start” but said “the GN representatives did move towards reaching an agreement over the week.”

The union leader said he couldn’t blame the three-and-a-half years of delays entirely on the pandemic because the union was able to negotiate agreements with other employers “with far less resources than the Government of Nunavut” during that period.

“So while Covid-19 may have been a complicating factor, it is certainly not the reason why these talks took so long to result in a tentative agreement,” stated Rochon.

Upon announcing the tentative agreement on social media, some Nunavummiut responded to the NEU with a request to prioritize a representative government workforce next — meaning Inuit would comprise 85 per cent of GN workers as opposed to 51 per cent, where the mark has essentially stood for many years.

“The NEU is committed to working with, and, when required, calling out or pushing employers who do not have workforces reflective of the population of Nunavut,” said Rochon. “We will also be calling on the GN to address issues such a high levels of vacant positions and to offer training and advancement opportunities for current and future Inuit employees. The GN is by far the largest and most influential Nunavut employer and the NEU will push the GN to be a leader by example when it comes to providing Inuit employment opportunities that can enrich the economic and social situation in all Nunavut communities.”

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