A local union president is calling for a show of appreciation for all Yukon government workers after millions of dollars in bonuses were only offered to nurses working for the territorial government.
Darcy Kasper, president of Yukon Employees’ Union Local Y017, wrote an open letter to department of Health and Social Services deputy ministers Michael Hale and Ed van Randen. (Read the full letter, Page 7.)
The letter is a response to the $6-million deal announced Dec. 1 for retention and signing bonuses for nurses employed by the Yukon government, which the release notes recognizes the work of nurses, incentivizes new nursing hires and will help address nursing turnover and high vacancy rates.
In the letter, Kasper said that non-nursing union members have been in contact with the union and expressed feeling undervalued.
Kasper’s letter notes that staffing shortages in “almost all areas of Yukon government” means staff are taking on extra workloads to meet their mandates across the board.
“Seldom are the staff recognized for their efforts by management which has shown a growth in positions during this time,” reads the letter.
For example, Kasper said nursing home attendants, therapists, dietary aides and domestic aides on the front lines of long-term care have been understaffed for an “extended period.”
“While these healthcare workers realize the important role of nurses, the feelings shared with me have been that they are not valued and taken for granted,” reads the letter.
Kasper said social workers are also feeling less important as Family and Children’s Services operates “well below” staffing levels.
The letter indicates some staff fear they will face retribution if they speak out.
In the letter, Kasper said the feeling of being more or less valued could lead to resentment among a team while highlighting that a staff shortage is not good enough of a reason to give bonuses to one group while “ignoring everyone else.”
“Thank you for your attention to concerns from employees within Health and Social Services,” reads the letter in closing.
“This could have all been avoided if dealt at bargaining, where it belongs and we have been in for the past year.”
A statement attributed to Hale and van Randen, provided to the News via the department of Health and Social Services, in response to the letter indicates the new bonus package is intended to address challenges in recruiting and retaining nurses.
“Our nurses have worked in an environment where other employers in and outside the territory sometimes offer more competitive wages and bonuses,” reads the statement.
“This has exacerbated the pressures we’ve felt from the global shortage of health care workers and resulted in temporary reductions in services across the territory.”
The statement acknowledges there are “so many other people” working in the health and social system who “play an integral role every day.”
“We hope that as a health and social team that’s dedicated to keeping Yukoners well, we can celebrate the work being done by one another and hold each other up as valued, respected contributors in a system that is facing unprecedented challenges,” reads the statement.
The statement notes the territorial government is currently in negotiations with the Yukon Employees’ Union on a “range of provisions” for the next collective agreement.
“We cannot comment on any details of the negotiation while collective bargaining is underway,” reads the statement.
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com