GN rejects advice on Igloolik, Kugluktuk job moves

Seventy-two GN jobs will be decentralized this year


The government of Nunavut will forge ahead with the controversial transfer of 21 department of sustainable development jobs from Iqaluit to Igloolik, despite advice from a GN-sponsored report that urges them not to do so.

The decentralization of these DSD jobs is confirmed in a press release issued May 21 announcing “Year III” of the Nunavut government’s decentralization plan.

Under that plan, the government will relocate 72 Iqaluit jobs to seven outlying communities between now and the end of March 2003. By then, the government will have moved 429 jobs from Iqaluit to 10 outlying communities.

But in a highly critical report released earlier this month, a team of researchers recommended that the transfer of the 21 DSD jobs from Iqaluit to Igloolik “should be re-assessed,” and the government should look at transferring other types of jobs instead.

Almost all of the 21 DSD jobs, which are in the department’s wildlife division, require technical qualifications that few Igloolik residents are likely to have, and “only three or four” would likely be filled by Igloolik residents, the report said.

“Unless jobs are restructured or changes made to the functions which will transfer, the likelihood of local benefits is very limited,” the report said.

The report also said the university-trained biologists, researchers, and technicians in the wildlife division need a specialized laboratory for their work — which does not exist in Igloolik.

It’s also possible that the people who now hold those jobs will refuse to move to Igloolik — which means that the government may have to rebuild the wildlife division from scratch.

But Okalik is brimming with optimism when he looks at the prospects for decentralization over the coming year.

“It [the Igloolik decentralization] has been scheduled for quite some time and the community has been expecting these jobs to be coming their way.… We’ve been successful elsewhere, even though there has been a lot of skepticism of the overall decentralization plan itself,” he said.

“If you look at other communities where technical expertise is required, we’ve been able to fill those positions. In Pangnirtung, for example, we have I don’t know how many specialists in health. So, in some cases, the report may say one thing, but the reality is we have been successful to date.”

One finding of the report is that decentralization is most likely to succeed when a majority of transferred jobs are of a type that local people are qualified for.

A shining example is the Nunavut Power Corporation head office in Baker Lake, where Inuit hold 14 of the 16 jobs that have been filled so far, and where only two jobs are vacant.

In Kugluktuk, on the other hand, the decentralization of about 14 Health and Social Services jobs has failed miserably.

Since August 30, 2000, when the Kugluktuk decentralization was announced, only three of those jobs have been filled, only one by an Inuk.

Like the jobs cited in the DSD relocation, the Kugluktuk Health and Social Services jobs are highly technical in nature. The report says it’s unlikely that local people will fill them, and that this decentralization should also be re-assessed.

But Okalik said the government will press on with the health and social services decentralization in Kugluktuk, and will continue its attempts to fill the positions.

He said one argument in favour of decentralizing highly technical jobs is that it gives young people in the communities a chance to see the opportunities that come with a college or university education.

“It’s an added opportunity for people to get very good technical skills,” Okalik said.

Okalik said he’s pleased that, of the decentralized jobs that have been filled so far, 59 per cent are held by Inuit. “That’s higher than the overall government rate,” Okalik said.

That compares favourably with all of Nunavut, where only 42 per cent of GN jobs are held by Inuit, and Iqaluit, where Inuit hold only 28 per cent of GN jobs.

But of the 340 jobs that were decentralized in Years I and II of the decentralization plan, only 209 had been filled as of December 2001, while 131 remained vacant.

Doug Workman, president of the Nunavut Employees Union, said the GN will always have a problem finding highly educated southerners willing to live and work in small communities, especially with the rising cost of living and rising air fares.

“We need a cost-of-living allowance that is really, truly reflective of the needs, rather than an arbitrary number. It’s attainable if the employer is prepared to truly address needs rather than fix and limit costs,” Workman said.

Another issue that the government must deal with, Workman said, is the lack of staff housing.

Yet another is that for many public servants, a move from Iqaluit to a smaller community is perceived as a kind of demotion, Workman said.

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