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Media Release: UNW Response to GNWT Fiscal Strategy

Feb 14, 2024

YELLOWKNIFE: The Union of Northern Workers (UNW) is gravely concerned about the Fiscal Strategy that was announced at the Ledge this week. Specifically, the emphasis on “finding efficiencies” in programs and services rather than reviewing our government’s overall administration.

NWT residents continue to experience increasing interruptions and reductions of the services they rely on. Threatening to cut these services as we face a growing healthcare crisis, skyrocketing cost of living, and extreme climate events seems very short sighted.

If the GNWT is going to highlight healthcare costs as one of its greatest fiscal challenges, it needs to get serious about recruitment and retention. Fighting northern-based healthcare 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 healthcare crisis. 

The efficient delivery of government programs services requires adequate capacity and resourcing. Cutting program funding and resources will put more pressure on front line and service delivery workers who are already overwhelmed and burnt out, leading to more turnover and longer wait times for the public.

If the GNWT is serious about creating a more “balanced” public service, any review of “efficiencies” needs to include the activities of the most senior levels of management, not just programs.

In fact, senior management positions saw the largest growth in our public service over the past year - how much duplication or redundancy is happening at the top? Has the GNWT become too top heavy?

The UNW is also concerned about how the upcoming review will be conducted. 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?

The GNWT’s invitation to its employees to evaluate themselves and their fellow workers for efficiencies via anonymous survey is also incredibly problematic. Pitting staff against each other to compete for program funding is bad for morale and contributes to toxic workplace culture. The GNWT already has a retention problem, this will only make it worse.

The union understands the economic pressures our government is facing, but sometimes the hardest decisions are figuring out how to save jobs and services rather than jump to cuts.

Our economy is precarious as it is; if “fiscal restraint” results in putting MORE pressure and stress on workers, they will leave the north, taking their tax dollars and local spending power with them. That means less money going back into NWT economy and local businesses. 

So how can the GNWT save money?

  • put healthcare money toward making our healthcare system an employer of choice so that the NWT can be more competitive in attracting and retaining resident healthcare workers;
  • take a good hard look at the administrative structure of the public service and start the search for efficiencies from the top down;
  • review existing plans, strategies, etc. to see if the GNWT is actually making progress in its goals and objectives, or regularly repeating expensive mistakes; and
  • reduce the amount of time and money spent on lawyers to fight their own employees over withheld rights and benefits that workers are entitled to under their collective agreements and HR policies.

The UNW hopes that the GNWT is willing to conduct an open and honest review - starting from the top - of how it administers the programs and services northerners rely on. We look forward to seeing the responses of the employee survey and hope the GNWT will actually listen to the workers who will be expected to carry out the priorities of the 20th Assembly.

Gayla Thunstrom,
UNW President


Quick Fact:

  • According to the GNWT Public Service Annual Report 2022-2023, between March 2022 and March 2023 the territorial public service grew at the following rate:
    • UNW Bargaining Unit positions increased 1.5%
    • NWTTA (teacher) positions increased 1%
    • Excluded positions increased 7.5%
    • Senior Management positions increased 8%


For media inquiries, please contact: 

Adrienne Cartwright
Communications Officer
Union of Northern Workers
867-873-5668 ext.225