Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 18: Health (18-24)

GN to pay thousands in bonuses to keep health-care workers

November 20, 2023

Nurses in Nunavut’s most remote communities to get $19,500 annual salary top-up

Nunavut Health Minister John Main, NEU President Jason Rochon and Premier P.J. Akeeagok pose Nov. 10 after signing a memorandum of understanding between the union and the department of health. (File photo)

NationTalk: Nunatsiaq News – The Government of Nunavut is offering thousands of dollars in bonuses to its health-care employees and future hires — above what’s already included in its contract with unionized workers — in a bid to recruit and retain workers.

In a memorandum of understanding signed on Nov. 10, nurses will receive annual salary top-ups ranging from $11,625 to  $19,500, depending on the size of their health centre.

There are also hourly premiums of $10 per hour for difficult-to-recruit positions, such as community health nurse, nurse practitioner, public health nurse, psychiatric nurse, mental health consultant and midwife. Those premiums rise to $15 per hour for these positions in communities designated as “difficult” to staff. The MOU does not list which communities fall under this designation.

There are also retention bonuses of $3,000 at six months of employment; $5,000 at one year of employment; and $7,000 at two years of employment. The GN is also offering a $3,000 sign-on bonus at hiring.

As well, the GN is implementing a FANS Loan Forgiveness Program which will forgive up to 20 per cent of a Nunavut student’s outstanding loan debt, up to $5,000 annually, for working in the territory.

Beyond monetary incentives, the MOU enshrines a number of other employee rights, including discretionary leave, two 15-minute rest periods per shift, and rules around scheduling. For example, split shifts will not be permitted.

The MOU is retroactive to Aug 2.

Nunavut Employees Union president Jason Rochon said the MOU includes issues the union was pushing for during the last round of bargaining and that they should be included in the next collective agreement. “We think that this MOU is really going to help support the nurses and health-care workers that we already have in the territory, and also help with retention and recruitment, but this is only a first step,” he said.

Rochon specifically said he believes the debt forgiveness program will be a good tool for recruitment and retention. 

Health Minister John Main said in an interview Nov. 17 that he believes the agreement will go a long way to addressing employee concerns.

Nunatsiaq News recently reported concerns from several nurses who allege Nunavut’s health centres are toxic work environments, their harassment complaints don’t result in improvements and that this work culture has persisted for years.

Nunatsiaq News asked Main, considering the history of the problems in the department, why he and the NEU announced the memorandum of understanding now. “Staffing across Nunavut and the state of our workforce, [is] extremely concerning, in terms of the essential services that we’re trying to provide at the community level, right across the territory,” he said. 

“This is what led to the MOU… It took us quite some time to develop it.”

By Jorge Antunes