The Nunavut Employees Union (NEU) officially came into existence on April 1, 1999, upon the birth of the Nunavut Territory. Preparations had begun almost two years earlier. Previously our members belonged to the Union of Northern Workers (UNW), a Component of the PSAC that united territorial and municipal workers across the Northwest Territories.
Thus our history actually began with the founding of the Northwest Territories Government Employees Association, which later evolved into the UNW. In 1967 many federal government employees working in the Northwest Territories, who were also members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), were being transferred to the Government of the Northwest Territories. This left them without union representation, which was of great concern to many of them. Many wanted to continue to be represented by PSAC. In mid-1968, a group of GNWT employees got together and signed up more than 50% of their co-workers. These people became the NWT Government Employees Association.
In order to gain collective bargaining rights for the group, labour legislation had to be written. With Labour Legislation in place, in November 1969, the NWT Public Service Association (NWTPSA) was officially established as the bargaining agent (union) for most GNWT employees. In May, 1970 the NWTPSA became a component of the PSAC. On May 15th a founding convention was held in Yellowknife, and bargaining began May 20th.
By the 1980s, the NWTPSA began organizing members from Hamlets and Housing Associations. By the late 1980s the union added its first private sector members. At their 1987 component convention, NWTPSA changed their component name to the Union of Northern Workers. The new name better reflected the wider, more diverse range of workers who now formed UNW.
In September, 1997 a referendum vote was held by the UNW members who lived and worked in what would soon become the Nunavut. A positive vote gave the UNW Executive a mandate to form an Advisory Committee that was tasked with the establishment of a separate component that would represent the Nunavut government employees, the Nunavut employees of Northwest Territories Power Corporation and the unionized employees of Nunavut Hamlet and Housing Associations. On May 5-6, 1998 the Nunavut Advisory Committee met in Ottawa at the Public Service Alliance of Canada Headquarters and drafted the By-laws for the Nunavut Employees Union.
On May 12, 1998, the PSAC Executive Committee approved the establishment of NEU and directed UNW to transfer all UNW members who lived and worked in Nunavut to the NEU. On June 11- 13, 1998 the NEU Advisory Committee met with UNW and agreed to a memorandum of understanding whereby Nunavut employees would be provided with continuing services UNW until NEU held their founding convention. In September, 1998 an Executive Assistant and a Service Officer became the first employees of the NEU. At the end of October, 1998 the NEU opened its Executive Office in Iqaluit.
On October 16, 17, and 18, 1998 NEU held their founding convention in Iqaluit. In addition to adopting the new entity's Bylaws and regulations the delegates of the founding convention elected a president and a full executive. Doug Workman was elected as President, Marion Love as the first Vice President, and Wilma Pigalak as the second Vice President. An operating budget and a dues schedule was was also approved for the period covering 1998 to 2002.
Finally, the Founding Convention delegates approved the official name of the Nunavut Employees Union and its logo.
NEU has held four subsequent conventions (2002; 2006; 2008 and 2011) since its founding convention. The membership has grown exponentially and as a union we have become an important and present force in Nunavut.