Nunavut government’s bad weather policy not safe for workers: union
GN asked parents to leave children at home alone during power blackouts
Government of Nunavut employees say changes to the GN’s bad weather policy don’t go far enough to keep workers safe.
The policy, which was recently updated, determines at what point the GN should close its offices due to the bad weather.
And the new policy was put to use Oct. 8, when Iqaluit residents woke up to snowdrifts, winds gusting up to 100 kilometres an hour and frequent power outages.
Although local schools and daycares were shut down, the GN decided to stay open that morning, leaving employees with children scrambling to find childcare.
“One of my biggest concerns is that people with children had to make a very ethical choice that morning, to go to work and leave their children in a position where there was no power and no heat,” said Caroline Anawak, president of Local 5 of the Nunavut Employees Union.
“How can people make a call like that?”
Anawak did not go into the office that morning. Instead, she stayed at home with her grandchildren, who had no school or daycare that day.
Power outages are not one of the criteria in the GN’s updated weather policy, although she says the wind velocity exceeded the GN’s criteria Oct. 8.
“It made no sense,” she said. “Not everyone in Iqaluit has an ATV or a secure form of transportation. Why is anyone putting anyone else at risk?”
The GN finally closed its offices on the afternoon of Oct. 8., due to continuing power outages.
But Local 5, whose membership includes most GN employees in the Baffin region from Cape Dorset to Grise Fiord, has asked the GN to modify its bad weather policy following a decision to keep government offices open during a major blizzard last March.
The GN made that decision despite a request from the City of Iqaluit asking that people and vehicles stay off the roads.
Now Anawak says the GN must revisit its policy again.
“There are too many criteria to use all at once to make a decision,” she said. “This policy has to be respectful of employees and family friendly.”
The policy is one issue union members will discuss in the new year, when the union’s collective agreement comes up for renewal.