Mr. Speaker, I’ve avoided making public comments about the ongoing negotiations between this Government and the Union of Northern Workers (UNW), because I’ve been under the assumption that both sides are working in good faith towards an agreement. However, I’ve seen nothing in the past two and a half years to indicate that a deal will ever be reached – it’s beginning to look like a strike is more likely than timely resolution so I can’t keep quiet any longer. Just look at the centrepiece of the last offer from this government: a zero-point-one percent wage increase over their previous offer. That’s the negotiating equivalent of saying “here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.”
Of course there’s more than one party to the negotiations so it might not be fair to put all the blame on the government. However, I’ve spoken with a lot of UNW members and they’re more than willing to negotiate. They’re aware of the hit that the economy has taken, and they see the struggles the private sector is facing, so they’re not looking to fleece the Government, they’re just looking for a fair deal, and I know their leadership is aware of that.
Regardless, I’m not here to provide oversight of the UNW, I’m here to make sure that this Government is working in the best interest of the people, and I don’t think that Cabinet’s strict adherence to their untenable offer the is in the people’s best interest. It’s clear to everyone that it won’t lead to a deal. What the Government’s position is doing is alienating it’s employees, putting their backs up against a wall, and making a strike seem like their only recourse.
Mr. Speaker, we all know that a strike won’t do anyone, any good. It won’t be good for the public: we already struggle to provide our residents with adequate services and a strike will only make things worse. It won’t be good for government employees: they have bills to pay just like everyone else, and not everyone will be able to make those payments on strike pay. It won’t be good for the private sector either: government contracts will dry up, and, if people aren’t working, they won’t be spending money.
To be clear, I’m not taking a position on whether the union should strike or not – it’s their right to do so if they see fit, and I’m confident they wouldn’t do so unless they deem it absolutely necessary.
What I am doing is telling Cabinet to get their act together, and get back to the negotiating table with a mandate to actually make a deal, a fair deal, so our constituents in the public service don’t have this hanging over their head, and so the people of the Territory don’t pay the price for Cabinet’s stubbornness.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.