Nunavut government announces COVID-19 wage top-up for essential workers

Workers making less than $20 an hour eligible for extra $5 per hour

George Hickes, Nunavut’s finance minister, announced a new program to top up hourly wages for essential workers in Nunavut during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting on June 1. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

Starting next week, the Government of Nunavut will top up wages for eligible essential workers across the territory through a new program.

The program, dubbed the Nunavut Essential Workers Wage Premium, will launch on June 1, George Hickes, Nunavut’s finance minister, announced at a news conference this morning.

“The Government of Nunavut will fund eligible employers to pay their lower paid workers more for the hours they work,” Hickes said.

That means workers making less than $20 an hour will be able to receive an extra $5 per hour, Hickes said. Workers making between $20 and $25 per hour will also receive a top-up to bring their wages to $25 an hour.

Funding for eligible employers will be available for a period of 16 weeks, starting on June 1 and will also be made retroactive to May 1.

For now, the program will be available to employers who provide “health and social services to vulnerable Nunavummiut,” Hickes said.

That includes people who work in shelters, group homes, food banks and boarding homes.

The funding will also be available to licensed daycare facilities in the territory, Hickes said.

Hickes said the GN might also expand the program, which will be administered through the Department of Finance, to other employers in the future.

“The Government of Nunavut will consider expanding eligibility to employers in other sectors depending on program uptake and funding availability,” Hickes said.

Hickes said more information on how to apply and the details of the program will be available this coming Monday, June 1.

“Application forms and more information about this program will be available on the Department of Finance’s website on Monday. I strongly encourage employers in the sectors I mentioned to apply for the essential workers wage premium,” he said.

Hickes did not provide an exact dollar figure for how much the program would cost the government, but he said the GN received funding from the federal government to administer it.

“The federal government had announced a wage subsidy program, we’ll say more suited to southern Canada.… So the federal government has allowed us some flexibility of accessing that program to modify it to fit Nunavut’s programs or needs with co-operation from the federal government,” Hickes said.

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, also announced today that Nunavut’s public health emergency is extended until June 11. According to territorial legislation, the emergency order expires every two weeks.

Share This Story

(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by Applies to like 100 people on

    Almost no one is making less than $20 an hour in these fields so this is just political points – probably will cost almost nothing.

    Come on Hickes, can’t you agree to pay everyone on the front lines more? You’re paying millions to private businesses but almost nothing extra for govt employees.

    • Posted by airport on


  2. Posted by exactly on

    No essential workers is making under $20 per hour, minimum wage is $16 per hour and your saying a essential work make $4 more? Come on be realistic!
    Did you just wake up from 50 years ago Minister of Finance?
    Where do they come up with these ridiculous ideas!

  3. Posted by Pickled Herring on

    Will this include grocery store workers, cashiers for example. And cargo handlers? It should. If it doesn’t it’s really missing the mark by a wide margin in my opinion.

    • Posted by Is anything more essential than food? on

      it doesn’t and you are right, if anyone should be getting extra pay right now it is the people who are most exposed to the public and whose jobs are among the most essential right now. I think the Northmart here in Iqaluit has already bumped wages, I’m not sure about the other communities. Maybe Nunatsiaq could follow up on this.

  4. Posted by Darek B on

    Would not EVERYTHING that has remained open count as essential… since all the NON-essential businesses had to close (that’s why none of us have had a haircut since March and all look like muskox)

    I guess nurses, doctors, and daycare workers don’t have to eat because food is not essential? Sorry stock boys and girls, you’re not worthy of any appreciation according to GN.

  5. Posted by Southerner on

    With the high cost of living across the north. It’s not going to make of difference. And yeah, will it include grocery clerks, cashier etc.

    • Posted by Not so… on

      Nope, doesn’t include grocery workers as per the Minister’s answers to question yesterday. Also, the Minister incorrectly answered a media question that grocery stores already applied and received the Fed 75% wage subsidy which is simply wrong. The Fed criteria includes a 30% drop in business, which hasn’t happened. Grocery stores who have given pay bump have done it on their own. Not sure where he is getting his info from.

  6. Posted by Dr. Do Litttle on

    Wil this money go to Nunavummiut, or will it be used to try to attract more workers from the south?

    Current hring practices almost always require both specialized education and relevant experience.

    These reqirements make sense – in the abstract. They consider employees as intercgangable parts.

    The big problems are the inadequacy of education in Nunavut (with some notable exceptions) and the severe shortage of training opportunities in Nunavut.

    Most training requirements specified in the Nunavt Agreement have not been complied with. Eve a successful law suit has not led to a resolution of the problem.

    • Posted by Give it a rest on

      “will it be used to try to attract more workers from the south?”

      Please stop whining about workers from the south all the time, it’s such a repetitive bore. It’s unlikelty this has anything to do with bringing people up from then south, and even if an essential worker was needed for some position and that person needed to be imported from the ‘SOUTH” (oooh!! the south!!). So what? Grow up…

    • Posted by What lawsuit? on

      What law suit are you talking about for the Land Claim? As far I know, NTI has always settled rather than actually be “successful” suing anyone. What hasn’t been complied with?

    • Posted by Carpet Muncher on

      It is true that there are limited training opportunities in Nunavut, and that is part of the problem. But the picture is also more complex than that in my opinion. There also needs to be much greater preparedness in order for people entering higher level training in order for them to succeed.

      Inuit also need a cultural shift toward a greater valuation of education. There is an almost endless discussion around preserving the past in Nunavut, which is to say the preservation of an idea about identity; we see in this the high valuation of land skills for example. Recently there was a piece suggesting those should play a more prominent role in our education system (see the last article in this publication by Jane Glassco fellow Marjorie Kaviq Kaluraq). Yet I rarely see public figures writing articles or imploring fellow Inuit on the value of academics. There is a hostility it seems to ‘western knowledge’ as if it is a necessarily antagonistic, colonial imposition that offers nothing but cultural subversion. In some sense there is truth to that, but hiding away and pretending that the old ways will lead us proudly into the future is a mistake too.

Comments are closed.