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Incentives to attract and keep Nunavut healthcare workers

New agreements for municipal and housing employees
Nunavut Employees Union members working for the Repulse Bay (Naujaat) Housing Association voted to ratify a new collective agreement on April 2. The new agreement includes increased leave for traditional Inuit activities, new parental leave allowance and an increase in advance for sealift order provisions/orders. Darlene Nuluk, Simon-James Immingark, PSAC's Mary Anne Walker and negotiator Said Apali were key players in getting the deal done.

At a time when jurisdictions across Canada are struggling to recruit and retain healthcare workers, the Government of Nunavut extended a variety of perks.

Wage increases, retention bonuses, assistance in paying back student loans, and tuition forgiveness for working in Nunavut were part of a package of incentives devised to make the territory a more attractive place to find employment.

Several Nunavut communities have had to temporarily reduce services or even close healthcare centres due to shortages of staff.
The bonuses are in place until at least Aug. 1, 2025.

Lengthy strike resolved

Twelve unionized workers with the Iqaluit Housing Authority who went on strike for more than 130 days were finally able to come off the picket line when a new collective agreement was agreed to with the Government of Nunavut in July 2023.

The deal, negotiated through the Nunavut Employees Union and the Public Service Alliance of Canada, features an 11.5 per cent wage hike over five years, retroactive to 2020. There was also a signing bonus of $3,500.

Other incentives are an additional $500 payment as part of the language bonus, more days off for professional development to deal with domestic violence, for parental leave and to participate in Inuit cultural activities. As well, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation will be recognized as a paid holiday.

The terms of the deal are in place until June 30, 2025.

Kivalliq hamlet, housing employees ink deals

Fourteen employees with the Coral Harbour Housing Authority accepted a three-year contract in late October, avoiding a strike, which workers voted in favour of in September.

The agreement entailed a 1.75 per cent pay boost in 2021, two per cent in 2022 and 3.5 per cent in 2023. Northern allowance climbed to $24,747 from $23,292.

The workers, who fall under the Nunavut Employees Union, also received a one-time $3,000 payment and a bonus of $1,000 for Inuktitut speakers.

Five paid days and five unpaid days will be offered for employees to deal with family abuse.

Unionized municipal workers in Baker Lake and Arviat also landed significant gains through new collective agreements during the summer of 2023.

Among the provisions in Arviat are annual wage increases of 1.5 to 3.5 per cent between 2019 and 2024.

The number of paid traditional hunting days doubled to six. Employees are able to take up to five paid and five unpaid days to cope with family violence.

Baker Lake's hamlet workers received a 2.5 per cent wage bump in 2023 and 2.25 per cent annually between 2024 and 2026. Settlement and housing allowances were also set to rise by equal amounts.

For leave to deal with family violence, employees will be paid for five days off and unpaid for up to 15 weeks.

Up to three paid days can be used for medical appointments that entail travel.

All three deals were negotiated by the Nunavut Employees Union.

Big hills to climb

The Nunavut Employees Union and the Public Service Alliance of Canada face some major negotiations in the months ahead for most of the territory's unionized workers. Employees with the Government of Nunavut, the City of Iqaluit and Qulliq Energy Corporation will soon be in need of new collective agreements.

Fact file
Collective agreements set to expire during remainder of 2024

Government of Nunavut, Sept. 30

Kikitak Housing Association (Gjoa Haven), Sept. 30

Sanirajak (Hall Beach) Housing Association, Sept. 30

City of Iqaluit, Dec. 31

Qulliq Energy Corp., Dec. 31

Source: Nunavut Employees Union

About the Author: Derek Neary

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