Union of Northern Workers ‘gravely concerned’ by N.W.T.’s new fiscal strategy

Gayla Thunstrom, president of the Union of Northern Workers, says she is concerned by the announcement on the N.W.T.’s new fiscal strategy. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The president of the union representing N.W.T. public servants says she is “gravely concerned” by a new fiscal plan the territory announced earlier this week.

Gayla Thunstrom, president of the Union of Northern Workers, said in a news release on Wednesday that the threat of cuts to services during a health-care crisis, skyrocketing costs of living, and extreme climate events “seems very short sighted.”

“If the GNWT is going to highlight health-care costs as one of its greatest fiscal challenges, it needs to get serious about recruitment and retention,” she said.

“Fighting northern-based health care workers over pennies on the dollar while shelling out money hand over fist for southern contract workers is not a cost-effective solution to our health-care crisis.”

On Monday, N.W.T. Premier R.J. Simpson and Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek outlined a new strategy aimed at saving the territorial government $150 million a year. The plan detailed the difficult financial situation the territory is currently in, spending more on programming than it is bringing in.

Simpson suggested the review may lead to some programs and services being merged, while Wawzonek said the initiative is not meant to warn of job cuts.

In order to achieve the savings the government will undertake a review, with departments outlining possible redundancies. There will also be an online portal where employees can submit anonymous suggestions of where the government can find efficiencies.

Thunstrom writes that she has concerns with how this will affect employee morale.

“The GNWT already has a retention problem, this will only make it worse.”

Thunstrom writes that senior management positions saw the largest growth in the N.W.T. public service over the past year.

“Will senior management within each department be evaluating themselves against their program staff? Will the protection of higher-level administrative positions come at the cost of program and service-level employees?”

Thunstrom said the government should be looking top down for efficiencies, while also putting health-care money toward making it an employer of choice.

She said that the union understands the economic pressures the government is facing, but that jumping to cuts could worsen the problem by forcing overburdened workers to leave the territory.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: N.W.T. government announces review aimed at freeing up $150M annually, CBC News

Finland: Report highlights Finland’s top 5 housing problems, Yle News

Norway: Population declining in Arctic Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Abandoned properties a challenge for rural Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Budget cuts threaten transitional housing program in Alaska’s largest city, Alaska Public Media

Luke Caroll, CBC News

For more news from Canada's North visit CBC North.

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.
Netiquette »

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *