‘An awful lot of other people deserve and should get something like this as well,’ union says
The Yukon government is offering cash bonuses for some nurses who choose to work in the territory. It’s an attempt to fill a number of vacant community nursing positions and reduce turnover.
Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee announced $6 million to go toward signing and retention bonuses for nurses who work for the territorial government.
In a written statement, McPhee said the bonuses “will make the Yukon more competitive in recruiting and retaining nurses in a very challenging labour market.”
In October, McPhee said Yukon was dealing with a “very, very serious” vacancy rate in community nursing, saying it was then over 40 per cent. Typically, she said, the vacancy rate would be about five per cent.
The new bonuses will go to registered nurses, nurse practitioners and licensed practical nurses over the next two years:
- an immediate $15,000, and a $15,000 retention bonus starting April, for registered nurses and nurse practitioners.
- an immediate $8,000, and an $8,000 retention bonus starting in April, for licensed practical nurses.
- a signing bonus of $7,500 for new registered nurses and nurse practitioners, and $4,500 for licensed practical nurses.
The government is also offering a $10,000 bonus to primary care nurses (and nurses in charge) working in Yukon communities, and will also reimburse exam fees for new nursing graduates hired by the territory.
The bonus package is the result of an agreement with the Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU), which represents some of the territory’s nurses.
YEU president Steve Geick said he hopes the bonuses work, but he’s skeptical. The union had argued wage increases were a better way to go, as bonuses aren’t pensionable or reflected in severance.
“They [the government] are expecting quite a lot out of this, and you know, I think the whole point, yes, is to retain the few people that they have left and encourage others to come,” he said.
“This is the path that the government has chosen to go down, and I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
Geick said the bonuses won’t affect contract negotiations between the union and the government, set to resume later this month.
But he said the new bonuses create a rift between nurses and other government workers.
“We’re getting calls and emails from people that work that aren’t nurses saying, ‘What about me?'” Geick said.
“You know, an awful lot of other people deserve and should get something like this as well.”
-With files from Joseph Ho
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