Nunavut government offers more money in bid to bolster health staff

Incentives to recruit and retain health-care workers comes as part of memorandum of understanding with Nunavut union

Health Minister John Main, left, Nunavut Employees Union president Jason Rochon and Premier P.J. Akeeagok take a moment after signing a memorandum of understanding that will give health-care workers in Nunavut increased incentives to work and remain working in the territory. (Photo by David Lochead)

By David Lochead

The Nunavut government and Nunavut Employees Union hope a new incentive package will help recruit health-care workers and keep them in the territory.

They announced a memorandum of understanding Friday that includes bonuses for recruitment and retention, hourly wage premiums for difficult to recruit positions and short-staffing situations, and loan forgiveness for Nunavut health-care workers who studied and work in the territory.

Some current health-care employees will receive increased pay as a result of the agreement, and it will be retroactive.

“I don’t know if you can tell but I’m really happy today,” said Health Minister John Main.

“I tend to worry a lot when it comes to the state of health care in Nunavut and the needs of Nunavummiut, but today’s a really happy day.”

Main was at the announcement, which took place at the legislative assembly, with NEU president Jason Rochon and Premier P.J. Akeeagok.

Main said he hopes the incentives will help alleviate staffing concerns during times when health centres may face staff shortages, such as at Christmas.

He also said he hopes it will make Nunavut more competitive when it comes to recruitment and show appreciation for staff already in the territory.

“I’m just so happy for all our incredible staff,” Main said.

“We’ve looking for ways to show them they’re appreciated, that we hear them and their concerns and that we’re listening.”

Nurse retention has long been a challenge in Nunavut. Earlier this year, a former Resolute Bay nurse launched a lawsuit against the GN, alleging harassment and wrongful dismissal.

A dozen other nurses have spoken out to Nunatsiaq News over the course of this year, alleging they are overworked, not offered support, and pushed out of their workplaces if they ask for help.

Beyond monetary incentives, Nunatsiaq News asked Main if the memorandum of understanding includes mental health supports.

Main said there are existing mental health resources available to staff through the Department of Human Resources, such as the employee and family assistance program which offers 24/7 personal counselling for staff and their family.

“Those resources are in place and they’re resources we encourage our staff to access,” he said.

For Rochon, the agreement was an opportunity to work with the GN to make sure people in communities don’t go without health care because their health centre has to close due to staffing issues.

Five community health centres — Kinngait, Pangirtung, Kimmirut, Grise Fiord and Arctic Bay — have had to temporarily shut their doors at various times for this reason.

“We can’t have that in Nunavut or anywhere in Canada,” Rochon said.

Beyond the money, Main said he hopes the agreement shows the GN is following through on its intention to be a good employer.

“We can’t just use lip service,” he said.

“We can’t just make nice speeches in the [legislative] assembly and say, ‘Our health-care workers are our backbone.’ We need to show them.”


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(33) Comments:

  1. Posted by iThink™ on

    After reading last weeks series on the abysmal state of moral in health I’m convinced throwing more money at the problem is not really the solution, or even close. It’s nice, to be sure. But it seems like a superficial response to a complex problem that will not be remedied by it. I suppose it is better to appear to be doing something than nothing.

    • Posted by Tmp on

      This is not throwing more money at the problem… this is honoring promise that was made to the nurses over a year ago! It’s a good start but they are advertising for ER nurses in Saskatoon at $115 per hour. If they paid the proper amount for nurses they would have plenty wanting to come here and the bad apples that ruin the morale could get weeded out.

      And for the record Nunatsiaq News’s series on health last week did more to shame them into keeping their word than Jason Rochon and NEU has ever done for nurses in the territory, which is actually nothing.

      • Posted by S on

        Thanks, Tmp Cancel; you are being unnecessarily generous to Jason Rochon and everyone else at NEU concerning Nunavut.

        Rochon and the NEU staff and executive are a major contributor to the dysfunction in Nunavut and at GN. To put it kindly, NEU’s people are lazy, bureaucratic, and corrosive

      • Posted by Nunavut’s Highest Paid on

        I’ve seen nurses in Nunavut get a bi-weekly deposit over $16,000 in gross pay. Over $10,000 net. That’s the equivalent of making over $416,000 per year. I don’t think money is the problem, but let’s give them more so that they can maintain their beautiful house in the South.

        • Posted by Valerie on

          I have been a nurse in Nunavut for years and I have never seen or had a 10,000$ pay. I have often worked 30+ days in a row with no relief. Please send the 10,000$ pays my way if you see the again.

    • Posted by LongTimeComing on

      The news article served to highlight a gap and mistreatment thats been happening for YEARS, not only in Health, but all depts. Ill reference the housing authority strike in Iqaluit as a recent example. Shaming the GN seems to be the only way they respond. All they seem to do is put out fires and hope the general public dont see the harassment and bullying that GN managers thrive on. I believe that the NEU president Jason Rachon has done more for GN workers than any executive has done previously ( In fact ive worked for the GN for years and didnt even know who was my union rep prior to the present executive term.)
      Recruiting is easy….people want to come to Nunavut to advance themselves professionally, and bring in a decent salary…..hence all the agency and contracted positions that ppl hold in the South working remotely, yet are employed by GN depts and paid from the taxes of NU residents. Retention however is ridiculous. If someone wants to stay, live, and commit to the Inuit of NU as public servants, those people are treated like bottom of the barrel. Once those casual and agency workers come and see how awful the GN treat the people who are born here or choose to live and work here permanently to support their families, they scatter off to greener pastures.
      Grow Up GN. Time to see that finally people are strong enough to speak up for better treatment. Its not going to get fixed with a few bonuses (that they were guilted into paying out) but with better overall work/life balance, get rid of the ego’s and bully’s in management, and work on the toxicity that long term employees deal with every single day. Workers will continue to leave until a system already in crisis, eventually collapses.
      The NEU can do as much as they can when the upper management are allowed to continue to abuse its workforce. Time to step up and not accept this treatment anymore for Nunavummuit.

  2. Posted by Eskimos Fan on

    Let Inuit show they can educate and get their own people going. “Man up”
    Do it yourself. Show different. Rather than…”Society owes me …!”
    Prove it….

  3. Posted by Maybe on

    I was in contact with the GN today. Turns out, the person I was dealing with was working from somewhere else. Probably in Canada, but I could not be sure and chose not to ask.
    Maybe more money would help with the 30% to 40% vacancy rates in other GN departments. Or maybe, as iThink said, it’s more complex than that.
    Maybe it’s time to stop thinking of the GN as someone’s private toy.

  4. Posted by Canada Post on

    Nunatsiaq News:
    How about reporting on the disaster that is the postal dis-service in Iqaluit? Long lineups, just to stand in line again. Little to no information. The customer dis-service phone line that just rings, and is never answered. Has anyone received mail in Iqaluit in the past two weeks?

    • Posted by lol be thankful on

      Most communities in Inuit Nunangat do not receive free amazon shipping so be thankful they still ship to Iqaluit. If you’re a planner you can live in the north at southern prices with amazon, but it is not an option for most communities, including those services by road.

  5. Posted by ray daniels on

    this is like something out of the movie ‘dumb and dumber’, you decide which is which.

  6. Posted by Where’s the MOU on

    Is it too much to publish the MOU? Not on any of the websites.

    • Posted by Withheld on

      As a nurse I would also like to see the mou but it’s not published or shared anywhere. Just like the recent Neu meetings they appointed their own delegates when thats clearly against their own processes and policies.

      • Posted by LongTimeComing on

        The MOU had been sent to all nurses back early summer via their GN email address.

        • Posted by MOU on

          Any agreement between the Union and the GN should be published just like the collective agreement and other MOUs. Is the idea to keep it a secret from other GN staff and health workers?

  7. Posted by 867 on

    Money’s not the issue that most nurses are complaining about. You could double their salaries and the issues won’t go away. Rochon is clearly not listening to his members.

    The issues stem from incompetent managers telling nurses to work overtime, telling nurses they cant take leave, then HR and Finance never paying out the overtime unless 50,000 phone calls and emails are made.

    Go to kinngait or pang, violent threats and assaults are what keep nurses from showing up. Uniformed peace officers should be on site (not a 19 year old kid working for Scarlett security), and those who misbehave need to be arrested and charged.

    Nunavut is a rough place for any front line worker. Until these issues are solved, no dollar amount will fix the shortage and retention issues faced with nurses, teachers and social workers.

    • Posted by Ms Nursey Poo on

      This comment needs a fact check.

      Security staff in these communities are ex RCMP and not dudes you want to mess with. Used to be bad before enhancing security service

      Harping on ‘incompetent managers’ makes me guess you’re an ex GN staff? If you’ve already left NU just go already. Stop coming back to comment. Or post your real name at least.

      IMHO Nunavut offers competitive pay and benefits and attracts compassionate people who do amazing work together;;; 😉

      But Like every workplace there are highs and lows. Can say so as a current employee….. … IFKYK

      • Posted by There’s a first for everything on

        Thanks for chiming in, Ms Nursy Poo. You are the first person I hear of speaking positively of the nursing environment in Nunavut, which is a breath of fresh air. Only a few select health centers have trained security, most are just your local Joe Shmo’s making 25 bucks an hour. Definitely not former rcmp.

        If you truly are an indeterminate nurse who has been in the territory for 5 or more years and everything is great, thank you for what you do, nunavut needs more nurses like you.

      • Posted by Expat on

        I left but what the poster said was true. It’s a joke that nurses spend time off chasing Health HR for 8 months for every shift differential and overtime hour when a simple program like peoplesoft solves this problem. It’s overall a bad place to work because of management and directors who don’t have the hard or soft skills for the job and will only ever make it in Nunavut.

      • Posted by Scrubs on

        The only people brushing off the workplace problems in Nunavut are the ones causing them.

  8. Posted by S on

    It is difficult to differentiate among the players around the GN: the legislature, the bureaucracy, and NEU.

    Either way, the organizations and their players are generally and specifically incompetent, corrupt, and corrosive. Therein lies our leadership.

    Maybe the gods could help us; that other lot won’t

  9. Posted by Tooma on

    Younger inuit from nunavut can unscrew the problem. Trust issues with non inuit doing blood work, without consent, wrongful diagnosis, those are overlooked. Inuit must feel comfortable living in their home land, but with those issues, nobody wants to work with those who are non inuit making decisions probably an inuit that they didnt know about a certain issue. Knowledge is key.

  10. Posted by Judas Henry on

    A “gazillion” dollar salary is going to attract staff to the most violent and isolated place on this planet?

  11. Posted by Uvagut on

    The nurses contribute to the violence due to ignorance and disrespect they show to community members. Most are not trauma informed and are overwork which does not help the situation. Nurses do not realize just because community members re not fluent in english does not mean treat them dumb.

    • Posted by Mit on

      Ironically It’s exactly these types of attitudes that push good nurses out of the territory.

  12. Posted by Curious on

    offer more money to tell more patients to go home have tylenol and get lots of rest and drink water?

  13. Posted by Ridiculous on

    Giving nurses lots of money is not gonna fix anything. As usual, GN approach everything with bandaids method.
    Trying to keep nurses by giving them lots of money and not providing better workplace.

    I find it ridiculous that nurses do get so much attention and money thrown at them. What about support staff??? They don’t get any bonuses! Will nurses be able to do their jobs if they don’t have social workers, mental health workers, clerk interpreters or housekeepers doing their respective jobs? Why is it that during COVID nurses got thousands of dollars in bonuses but other staff didn’t? That’s just so low of GN to not acknowledge other health staff.

    Maybe if everyone was treated equal then the system wouldn’t be so broken …

  14. Posted by Lose out on

    Sad thing here is all the important, hard working employees wont see a dime of this. Front line workers who bare the blunt of everything will miss out on this just like every other bonus they give “healthcare workers”. Receptionist, LSW’s, cleaners, etc the ones who keep healthcare running always get left out. Hey MR MAIN there is more to healthcare then nurses, time to wake up and recognize us other healthcare workers

  15. Posted by Hunter on

    The entire Health Department really needs team building workshops. They should at least feel a sense of camaraderie tackling Nunavut resident’s health issues. The ones the end up suffering are the most impoverished and vulnerable.

    Another idea is for Sr. Management, Deputy Minister, ADM, Directors and Managers who regularly push paper need to be sent into the trenches and shadow nurses in remote communities for a week. Like an under cover boss. They wil understand the constant call outs, overtime, clients, and never ending paperwork that comes with the job.

    • Posted by Scrubs on

      Let me tell you a story from one of my first postings. We were in a small community, working long term care- four agency nurses. Most days, both our PSWs would call in ‘sick’ or not show up. We would run down the list. Rather than deal with dangerous conditions (ei, you actually do need two people for a two person transfer), we could call another nurse in to act as a PSW in extremis.

      After three weeks of that, and the four of us essentially being burnt out and sore, we found an email posted on the fridge like Luther himself had passed through, stating that if nurses wanted to pick up PSW shifts, an application for the position was attached- and that was issued from the regional manager.

      We didn’t want to be working 12 hour shifts, 6 days a week. We did it because otherwise, someone was going to get hurt.

      But it’s typical of how regional managers treat nurses, especially agency ones.

  16. Posted by Hunter on

    Your amazon order is not life or death. We discussing adult stuff that you may not understand.

    Call the -1-800 Canada Post customer number and file a complain and generate a ticket. Tell all your friends to do the same.

    Write a letter to our MP to bring the matter up in the House of Commons, tell all your friends to do this too.

    Trying to get a news paper to report on your issues is not going to help.

  17. Posted by Inuknurse on

    There are Inuk nurses. The amount of racism and never ending micro aggressions that Inuk nurses face at the hands of three non-Inuk Department of Health nurses is stifling. There are people in place that maintain the reign of terror and they are the direct reason Inuk and no -Inuk nurses leave. For good. Get rid of them and everyone will be able to work, and work the long hours that are required.

  18. Posted by NU Solve-all on

    Fire money at it. Demand more federal funding… money; money. Let’s not worry about the insignificant things like addressing issues, holding people accountable, or putting people in token positions where they lack the knowledge, skills, and competency to succeed – waste of time and not money; money; money money,

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