NW Week

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The closure of obstetrics renews calls for pandemic compensation for N.W.T. frontline workers

N.W.T. frontline workers

Key Takeaways:

  • Nurses are dissatisfied for reasons other than pay, according to the health minister.
  • Health Minister Julie Green of the Northwest Territories acknowledged Monday in the Legislative Assembly the importance of morale and a “solid organizational culture” in retaining health care workers.

Green stated that nurses want better management support, less turnover, more comprehensive orientation, and more staff to improve that culture.

Green said that in a recent exit survey of N.W.T. nurses who left between January and August of 2021, those, along with “dissatisfaction with management,” were crucial reasons nurses left. Green also listed “personal reasons,” such as moving to accompany a partner to a new job, as a top reason nurses left.

Green stated that the survey found that nurses’ workplace satisfaction “is not tied to compensation,” despite nurses’ requests for increased pay throughout the pandemic.

Nurses asked for a $4-an-hour wage increase retroactive to March 2020, retention bonuses for current staff, signing bonuses for new hires, and the return of personal sick time that nurses had to use to isolate after being exposed to COVID-19 at work in a letter sent last month to all N.W.T. M.L.A.s and Cabinet.

In a member statement Monday, great Slave M.L.A. Katrina Nokleby said that the Northwest Territories are the only Canadian jurisdiction that did not use federal COVID-19 funds to compensate frontline healthcare workers. “The N.W.T. is the only province or territory in Canada where frontline staff has not received any pandemic or hazard pay,” Nokleby explained. “Our frontline workers are entitled to retroactive pandemic pay right now.”

Shortly after the pandemic began, nurses in British Columbia and Ontario received temporary hourly pay increases. In addition, some frontline workers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, and Labrador received one-time payments of up to $2,000 and signing bonuses in Prince Edward Island.

Nokleby also mentioned signing bonuses in Yukon and Nunavut, though could not confirm whether these bonuses were directly related to the pandemic.

Nokleby made clear that the strain on N.W.T. nurses began long before the pandemic. Green informed the assembly on Monday that a preliminary meeting with the U.N.W. had occurred over the weekend. Green declined to comment before a media briefing on the obstetrics unit closure scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Source: C.B.C. News

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