Labour Views May 20, 2015
Written by Alex Lambrecht, Treasurer Northern Territories Federation of Labour

35 years ago, On May 17, 1980, 54 delegates attended the founding convention of the Northwest Territories Federation of Labour, chartered by the Canadian Labour Congress.  The delegates represented 26 Locals with a total membership of 3,230.  They adopted a Constitution, elected an executive, and dealt with 23 resolutions.

The first elected President of the Federation was Phil Malloy of the United Steelworkers; and the first elected Secretary/Treasurer was Jo Showalter of what is now known as the Public Service Alliance of Canada.  The minutes of the convention read, “in accepting the Charter the President mentioned three people whose long term commitment to the formation of a Federation made the dream a reality; they were Cliff Reid, Marsh Hawes, and B. Carr.”  Following his efforts to establish a Federation, Cliff Reid was then elected as the second President.  Since then, other Presidents have been: Deborah O’Connell, Dave Johnston, Jim Evoy, Anne Juneau, Hank van Vulpen, Wayne Campbell, Bob Haywood, and Mary Lou Cherwaty.

Some things have changed over the past 35 years.  There are now 56 Locals affiliated to the Federation with a total membership of over 10,000.   In 1998, to prepare for the creation of Nunavut, the name changed to the Northern Territories Federation of Labour and still includes members in both Northwest Territories and Nunavut.  Our Conventions now alternate between the two territories, and occur every three years.

While change is often inevitable, many things about the Federation remain the same.  Our role in safeguarding and promoting the principle of free collective bargaining, the rights of workers, and the security and welfare of all people remains as relevant today as it was 35 years ago.  So, too, does our commitment to encourage workers to vote, to exercise their full rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and to perform their rightful part in the political life of the municipal, territorial and federal governments.

At the founding convention 35 years ago, delegates passed resolutions to: raise public awareness on the shortage of childcare facilities, urge parties to settle land claims, support legislation to implement a “Hire North Policy” for all Northern Industrial development and provide a workers’ compensation structure with no maximum ceiling on assessable remuneration.  They also agreed to “advocate a fully comprehensive, tax-supported health program providing complete coverage to all the people of the Northwest Territories; for all medical, paramedical, optical and dental services and prescription drug services, with full reciprocity of benefit between the Provinces and Territories and without interference of any of the Insurance Companies.”

In 35 years, the Northern Territories Federation of Labour has worked to increase Northern Solidarity, and with the upcoming elections this year, Northern Solidarity will be key in bringing together people from across the territories to elect governments that best represent societies collective values.