Hay River healthcare staff won’t get NWT’s new bonuses


Healthcare workers in Hay River won’t get the thousands of dollars in new bonuses announced by the NWT government and Union of Northern Workers on Wednesday.

Neither the territory nor the union made any mention, in announcing the bonuses, of the fact that the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority is not included.

The authority’s union members are governed by a separate collective agreement with the territorial government and so do not qualify for what would otherwise have been between $5,000 and $7,000 a year in retention bonuses.

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While this detail formed no part of Wednesday’s announcement, it is understood to have been made clear to staff in a separate, internal summary of the changes.

Gayla Thunstrom, the union’s president, issued a written statement to Cabin Radio on Thursday in which she confirmed that Hay River healthcare workers won’t get the same bonuses as in every other community.

“Even though the GNWT funds all health and social services in the NWT, employees with the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority are covered by a different collective agreement. The GNWT did not extend a similar offer to HRHSSA members at this time,” Thunstrom wrote.

“The HRHSSA bargaining unit is currently engaged in regular collective bargaining with the employer; however, there is nothing preventing the employer from offering to discuss a similar labour market supplement at any point in time.”

Todd Sasaki, a spokesperson for the NWT government’s Department of Finance, said the territory was “not at liberty to comment on the extent or content” of discussions with the union regarding a similar bonus in Hay River.

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Erin Griffiths, the chief executive of Hay River’s health authority, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Two healthcare workers separately contacted Cabin Radio on Thursday to complain that the announcement a day earlier had been misleading.

Hay River’s health authority has been as badly affected by the current staffing crisis as any other part of the territory.

In March, the authority warned of an “unprecedented shortage” of staff in the six months ahead. The supply of nurses, who are a primary target of the new retention bonuses elsewhere in the territory, was listed as a key concern.

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A survey of published base salaries for comparable healthcare positions in Hay River and Yellowknife suggested the two are roughly equivalent.