Nunavut MLA seeks an end to workplace bullying within territorial government
“There should be no room for bullying or harassment within the GN,” premier says
Bullying within the Government of Nunavut remains a big problem, says Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak.
“There are individuals who use their positions of power and authority to bully and put down employees. Shame on you!” said Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak during the recent sitting of the legislature, on June 5.
GN employees who are being bullied don’t want to go on the record because they worry about losing their jobs, he said.
While Akoak said he knows whistleblowing legislation is supposed to protect employees who report bad behaviours, “in reality, when employees talk to their supervisors, they are often the ones who face repercussions, not the wrongdoer.”
Akoak said bullies are often hard to deal with.
“As anyone who has been a victim of bullying knows, some behaviours are difficult to describe,” he said. “Bullies can be very clever in justifying their actions and words. Who else do the victims of bullying turn to?”
During question period, Akoak asked Premier Joe Savikataaq to tell him what protections are offered to a GN employee who “blows the whistle” on suspected wrongdoing by another government employee.
Saviktaaq was firm in his response: “there should be no room for bullying or harassment within the GN.”
“We have, like the member stated, whistleblower protection.
“No employee should be afraid to come forward if they have concerns about bullying or harassment,” he said. “We want the Government of Nunavut to be an employment of choice, a nice place to work, a good place to work, where people want to come to work and not be fearful of going to work. We want to have a good atmosphere.”
If GN employees have issues about bullying, then they should come forward and they can report it, Savikataaq said.
Meanwhile, the new Human Resources Department is finalizing an anti-harassment policy, he said.
“In this house we can’t talk about specific human resources issues very openly, but my main part of the message to the member and to everyone listening is that there is no place for bullying in this department, in this government,” he said. “And if it’s happening, the workers have the right and they should report it.”
Savikataaq also said employeers should feel free to talk to their MLAs.
“We’re all MLAs here, all of us. Some of us are MLAs and ministers, but we’re all MLAs,” he said.
Employees can also report alleged wrongdoings to the ethics officer, Jeffrey Schnoor, who tabled his annual report on June 6.
During 2018-19, he said he received four disclosures of wrongdoing, down from 11 in 2015-16.