Nunavut power corporation lawsuits raise “troubling themes,” reader says
“Overflowing filing cabinets of employee grievance files at the GN”
As a former Government of Nunavut employee, I read with interest your newspaper’s reporting of the wrongful dismissal lawsuits brought by former employees of the Qulliq Energy Corp., which proceeded to trial over the last two weeks in Iqaluit.
It will certainly be up to the court to determine what the facts are, and whether any liability should flow from those facts.
That being said, as a former territorial employee, I found that certain troubling themes emerged from the evidence heard in those trials, which in my experience are reflected in many GN workplaces spanning across departments and territorial agencies.
The first theme is a perceived lack of trust or goodwill between senior managers and their subordinates in the public service.
In order for our government workplaces to achieve the objective or providing good services to Nunavummiut, they must function as a team. A team is premised on an environment of trust amongst its players.
However, in many Nunavut government departments such an environment simply doesn’t exist. Senior managers see their function as one of policing subordinates rather than working with them to achieve department goals.
Employees are nervous at calling in sick for fear having a phone hung up on them, or worse. Performance reviews are seen as more of an exercise in management asserting control than helping the employees improve.
The second theme I noted was senior management’s inexperience in properly addressing employee relations issues, which again is found across government departments in the GN.
For example, you don’t terminate an employee without cause through a termination package, and then proceed to flip-flop and assert termination for cause when the package is not accepted.
You do not bring in a person to mediate a workplace dispute who happens to be a subordinate of one of the parties to the mediation. I am sure that if you were able to access the overflowing filing cabinets of employee grievance files at the GN, you would find many of these same types of mistakes having been committed again and again.
The final theme I saw emerge from the QEC lawsuits is senior management’s desire to carelessly tinker with the agency or department’s organization with little or any consideration given to the impact that such tinkering may have on the lives of employees.
Employment positions are not just hollow boxes on an organizational chart that can be shuffled around at will. Human beings occupy those positions and, for most of us, employment is one of the most important things in our lives.
In closing, I want to emphasize that it will be for the courts to decide the outcomes of the QEC lawsuits, and in no way am I intending to prejudge the outcome of those cases.
But I do think that the evidence heard in those lawsuits should give senior management in other GN Departments and agencies something to think about.
(Name withheld by request)
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