Deal includes special allowances, bonus payments and money for continuous service

GN finally confirms nurse retention package


The Government of Nunavut has finally confirmed exactly how much it's willing to pay nurses under a new recruitment and retention package.

The package came into force June 17, but is nearly identical to an offer made in November 2007, during collective agreement talks with the Nunavut Employees Union.

The additional money for nurses is an attempt to keep Nunavut's nurses from leaving the territory and fill the estimated 70 vacant positions, out of 211, that are now filled by temporary nurses.

In a July 8 news release, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq called the package "a real contribution to improving the stability of the nursing workforce while reducing our reliance on agency nurses."

The package includes a system of "special allow­ances," bonus payments and monthly payments for continuous service.

The scheme's "special allowance" will give front-line nurses and nurse practitioners who work in small community health centres between $19,500 compensation and benefits for a one-nurse centre and $11,625 a year for a four-nurse centre.

All other front-line nurses, including those who work at the Qikiqtani hospital and other larger facilities, will get an annual allowance of $9,000 a year.

A front-line nurse, hired after the collective agreement was reached, will receive a signing bonus of $5,000, another $5,000 at 18 months and an additional $10,000 after 30 months of continuous service.

The new scheme also includes one-time long-service bonuses that will pay up to $20,000 to nurses who are already working in Nunavut.

Aglukkaq said Nunavut has 50 nurses with more than three years of service, who stand to receive $20,000 under the new package.

Finally, all front-line nurses will get a monthly retention bonus.

This ranges from $375 a month for those with less than five years of continuous service, topping off at $550 a month for those with 20 or more years of continuous service.

Front-line nurses who mentor recent graduates from Nunavut Arctic College's nursing program will get a payment of $500 a month.

The plan also includes from $3,000 to $6,330 a year for registered nurses and certified nursing assistants to attend conferences and take courses.

But this retention plan applies only to nurses who deal directly with patients.

It excludes teaching nurses, administrators and non-nursing health professionals, something Cheryl Young, the former head of Local 3, the nursing unit within the NEU, questioned when the package was first proposed last November.

Young said the plan also didn't directly address three big issues for nurses: staff housing rents, the cost of living, and wage levels.

Young said Nunavut should have raise nursing salaries by at least 15 per cent over three years, and put a cap on staff housing rents, to be competitive with other jurisdictions.

Base salaries under the new package rise less than half that much, from $65,228 to $68,710.

Nurses in Nunavut have asked for pay equity with agency and international nurses as well as higher pay for overtime work.

This week, the GN also confirmed that a pre-nursing program will start for high school students in Iqaluit, Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet.

A nursing program will start in these three communities in 2009 if at least 15 students sign up.

Increased financial support will also be available to nursing students who will be paid while they prep for national exams and receive a child care subsidy while they study nursing.

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