Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut July 13, 2018 - 8:30 am

Inuit employment, staff retention a focus for Nunavut’s new HR department

“The MLAs were clear on their desire to have this”

“It’s not as simple as reversing what was done then,” Nunavut’s finance minister says, following a cabinet announcement to reopen a dedicated human resources department. “I want to make sure that this is done right, not fast.” (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
“It’s not as simple as reversing what was done then,” Nunavut’s finance minister says, following a cabinet announcement to reopen a dedicated human resources department. “I want to make sure that this is done right, not fast.” (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

It’s a need for more training, staff retention, respect in the workplace and higher Inuit employment rates that is leading the Government of Nunavut to set up a separate department for human resources.

That’s what Nunavut’s finance minister and minister responsible for the public service, George Hickes, told Nunatsiaq News, on Thursday, July 12, one day after his department announced a merging of the file that was recently split between the departments of Finance and Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs.

“Human resources needs to have a centred focus if we want to move our civil service forward,” said Hickes, who called the single department “critical” to the government.

“It’s recognized that having a standalone department will enable that focus,” he said. “The decision is made. The next step is to merge responsibilities and create a standalone entity.”

The last time the GN had a dedicated department for human resources was in 2012.

When that department was then dissolved, HR roles were divided, so that recruitment and training around Inuit employment in the GN were handled by EIA, while Finance dealt with general staffing and human resources needs for existing staff.

Hickes said he couldn’t call that move a mistake, as progress has been made to correct human resources problems within the government.

“This wasn’t a failed experiment,” he said.

Still, even if communication is good between departments, “there is going to be gaps” when you split the work, he said.

It’s cabinet members together who made the call to bring back the department, Hickes said, and the decision was already earmarked as a priority even before he became the minister of finance in June.

“The MLAs were clear on their desire to have this,” he said.

In the recent sitting of the Nunavut legislature, Arviat North-Whale Cove MLA John Main asked then-finance minister David Akeeagok if the HR split had anything to do with the trouble the GN has in filling vacant positions.

“Is the current set-up of having HR within the Department of Finance better than the old set-up, which was to have HR as its own department?” Main asked on June 6.

“The discussion of which way is best for this government is still up for debate with my cabinet colleagues,” Akeeagok said then.

On June 11, during committee of the whole, Aivilik MLA Patterk Netser asked the same question, and was given a similar response.

On the first day of the first sitting of the new government in March, Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Lightstone said he was going to advocate for a public service commission in the GN. He said he didn’t mention the commission in his election platform “due to fear of repercussion.”

“I believe that having an arm’s length organization handling our human resource matters would be in the best interest, as they would be representing the employees as well as management,” he said then.

Lightstone’s views are informed from having worked in the Department of Finance himself.

But in the previous government, Nunavut’s MLAs also called in 2016 for that commission, but it was never set up.

That’s after the GN was experiencing reports of harassment and bullying in the workplace in 2015.

“There have been steps taken to recognize workplace safety. The message is working its way through the civil service so that people recognize their rights,” said Hickes, who as an MLA at the time said that workplace conflict was directly linked to staff retention issues.

While all this discussion was going on between the previous cabinet and MLAs over human resources policies, the public also discovered that a decision to dissolve the HR department in 2012 happened after the GN commissioned a private report in 2011 that advised the government to keep the department.

Cabinet refused to table that report for MLAs in 2015, but Nunatsiaq News obtained the report through an access-to-information request.

That report, and corresponding efforts to overhaul human resources in the GN, came in response to a 2010 report by Canada’s auditor general that gave Nunavut’s government a failing grade in HR management.

Since then, the GN has put many staff through training on harassment in the workplace.

The GN’s current human resources strategy is scheduled to run until the end of this year, from 2014 to 2018.

Back to today, Hickes says this new department will make sure that training programs “mesh” with what GN employees need, and will see that civil servants are given the chance to advance in their careers.

Planning for this new department will continue over the next few months.

“It’s not as simple as reversing what was done then,” he said. “I want to make sure that this is done right not fast.”

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(13) Comments:

#1. Posted by Asukuluk on July 13, 2018

about time!  thank Q if there is less division and more working together and take out too many bosses such as too many Diretors.  more of a team work for nunavutmiut.

#2. Posted by pudlo on July 13, 2018

Quick hire # 1.

#3. Posted by Public Service Commission on July 13, 2018

Adamie has the right idea and he should keep persuing it.

A non-political Commissioner is what we need.

Too often people are black-listed in the GN because they asked a question, brought up Land Claims stuff or who asked where all the Inuit were?

A PSC would be fair, unbiased and transparent.

Keep pushing it Adamie!

#4. Posted by Put the focus back on the People on July 14, 2018

If the GN really wants to make improvements in the areas of recruitment and retention of staff, they need to make significants improvements to how staff housing and relocation is administered.  Those two areas are a huge barrier to attracting and retaining good talent and they don’t even fall under the HR portfolio.  So much work to do to get it right but I think this Government is heading in the right direction.

#5. Posted by Never went beyond on July 15, 2018

I remember a co worker wrote a harassment report to her supervisor and the the supervisor acknowledged the worker that it would be forwarded to the higher position after submitting the harassment to higher positions it went nowhere they never did anything to the person that harassed and the person still works there! A lot of higher positions get away with too much some don’t even follow the policies and procedures in place that are to be followed! Thanks Adamie we need voice like you!

#6. Posted by Sam on July 15, 2018

There a reason way there are some many vacancies in GN, it is intensional. It’s because casual employees are not factored in the numbers when GN reports on the percentage of Inuit employed. It’s GN’s way on distorting their report to make them look good. George please fix this and make it mandatory that casual employees be included in future GN employee reports. If It is GN intent to continue its game of deceitful report, maybe it’s time for Nunatsiaq New to do another access-to-information request and let the public know the true number. I’m sure the results will be another failing grade for GN as it will be discovered that most casual employees are non-Inuit.

#7. Posted by Beneficiary on July 16, 2018

The priority for the “new” HR department is to follow through and implement the recommendations from the 2010 Auditor Generals Report on Human Resource capacity.  Its plainly obvious the Petersen dissolved the HR department because he knew that the GN didn’t want to or couldn’t implement the highly critical recommendations, and there would be no one to answer to.

Report here:

#8. Posted by Other side of the coin on July 16, 2018

#5 But maybe there wasn’t much to the harassment claim? A complaint doesn’t make for an automatic dismissal. If it did the public service would surely be gutted by now.

#9. Posted by Uvaguu on July 16, 2018

these changes were initiated by the previous mlas .  that is good hickes is now a supporter. 

the gov of NU need more accountable to voters so the new dept. is welcome.

#10. Posted by uvagna on July 16, 2018

The previous HR department slowed down the hiring process and created a major gap between those hiring (HR staff) and the departments who had to deal with those hired. Now people are praising this idea as if it is a new solution; although just a few years earlier they praised eliminating it because it failed.I suppose people value change above progress. Inuit employment problem is not caused by the hiring process. The issue is in the pool of candidates that lacks the minimum requirements. Effort should be dedicated into enhancing that pool through education and training! There is no alternative solution.

#11. Posted by Jim on July 16, 2018

#10.  Things have dramatically improved since the HR department was dissolved.  At that time, it took an average of 318 days to fill a competition from start to finish (2010 OAG report).  According to the PSAR from last year, an average competition takes just over 100 days.

#12. Posted by union member on July 18, 2018

So if they are looking for better retention and training, they need to be looking at improving the collective agreement as it comes up for renewal in a few months- without that, there’s a chance that it will be all talk and no action- or action that can be taken back at any time at the whim of management.

If the MLAs are serious about this, they need to ask their senior staff to go into collective bargaining with an openness to supporting the needs of staff (including training needs) and not the stubborn refusal to give an inch they have gone in with over the last few agreements.

#13. Posted by Interesting on July 18, 2018

#12 You suggest the ‘collective agreement’ needs to be improved. That’s interesting, what would you say needs to be improved the most? It seems quite generous to me anyway.

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