Yellowknife clubs hope for a deal as city, union enter final day of labour negotiations
As the City of Yellowknife and the Public Service Alliance of Canada North enter their second and final day of mediation, the clock is ticking for them to reach a new collective agreement.
PSAC says city workers are in a legal position to strike as of 8 a.m Wednesday, but if they don't reach a deal by midnight Tuesday night, the city could lock workers out starting at 5 a.m. That would trigger the closure of many city facilities and the shutdown of non-essential services and programs.
A lockout — essentially, the city shutting things down before employees can walk off the job — would mean the public library, multiplex, fieldhouse, pool, arena, visitor information centre and solid waste facility will all be closed Wednesday, and city hall will be open by appointment only.
The city's blue bin recycling stations won't be open and compost won't be collected, but garbage pick-up will shift to once per week. Places relying on water delivery or sewage pick-up will still get those services. City buses won't be affected.
There won't be any non-essential snow and ice clearing; outdoor rinks and trails won't be maintained; and all winter programs and lessons will be suspended.
Remy Leclerc, the president of the Yellowknife Polar Bear Swim Club, said a lockout would scuttle the club's plans for its territorial swim meet, which is supposed to start this coming Friday.
The club has been planning for that since November, he said. Swimmers from Hay River were planning to attend as well.
"We're waiting to see what comes out of the talks ... and see if the employees are locked out on Wednesday. And if they're locked out, then I'll have to inform Hay River that the territorial swim meet will be postponed until a later date," Leclerc said.
He added he's thankful Inuvik's pool isn't open yet, or swimmers from Inuvik would likely already be on their way to Yellowknife.
If the pool in Yellowknife closes, that would also impact swimmers planning to attend Alberta provincials later in February, he added. They have four swimmers who have qualified, and several more who are supposed to swim this weekend to qualify.
The possible closure of city facilities could also have an impact on a minor hockey tournament set to happen this weekend.
Steve Thompson, the president of the Yellowknife Minor Hockey Association, said the hockey association is still planning as if they'll go ahead with the Chris Bergman Memorial hockey tournament, which is set to run Friday to Sunday, and is hoping negotiations between the city and the union go well.
As for the rest of the season, outdoor rinks are an option but many of them are controlled by the city, he noted. If either a strike or a lockout happens Wednesday, "unfortunately, we're basically going to be unable to continue with hockey," he said.
Teams can still play at tournaments in other communities, and there's the possibility they can play on outdoor rinks, though many of those are city-controlled, he said.
"This year would have been great to have a full season, but we fully understand the nature of labour disputes," he said.
"We're happy we got in when we could, and we're hopeful that something happens before the end of the day today and we can continue the season."
Thompson, who is also the president of the Yellowknife Gymnastics Club, said unlike some other sports, gymnastics wouldn't be affected by a strike or lockout.
The club owns its own facility inside the Multiplex and has a side door to enter through. As long as it's safe to get into the facility, regarding snow and ice levels, it'll be "business as usual," he said.