The Government of Nunavut has ‘very limited’ staff housing and Human Resources Minister David Akeeagok acknowledged on Sept. 10 that government departments are being asked to prioritize the positions that they advertise as having staff housing a benefit.
John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, described the situation as “very troubling” because it’s impacting the ability to recruit health professionals. He noted that 14 of 37 health positions were vacant in Arviat as of June 1 and eight of 16 jobs in Whale Cove were unfilled.
“It’s my understanding that there is a prioritization schedule in which health professionals are supposed to be at the very top,” Main said. “These are among the most important positions in our communities, Mr. Speaker. These are people who we rely on to save lives in some cases. To hear that there is no staff housing available for somebody who could be a lifesaver
makes the difference in terms of one of our constituents, one of our Nunavut residents, it’s very troubling to hear that our government is struggling to provide these very important professionals with staff housing.”
Akeeagok acknowledged that health staff are at the top of the priority list, but the demand for staff housing has boomed.
“It’s no different from public housing and it’s the amount of stock that we have in terms of the number of staff housing,” he said. “The housing corporation has a tender that has been on for any community to see if there are any leases that we can have and there are not enough houses in our communities to get that uptake. With a lot of combination of this, it’s just
we don’t have the stock.”
Main asked the minister to commit to ensuring that wages and compensation paid to Nunavut’s health staff is competitive enough to recruit more workers.
Pointing out that there’s a health-care worker shortage across the country, Akeeagok acknowledged that wages have to be “at par or better” to attract those workers to Nunavut.
The minister added that collective bargaining negotiations are underway with the Nunavut Employees Union, and that includes nurses.