Qulliq Energy Corp. could be facing more legal action from its former workers, following the recent departure of two longtime employees who said they were punished for defending Inuit rights in the workplace.
Chris Cousins and Joe Sageatook told CBC News they are taking action against Nunavut's public power utility, which already faces lawsuits from two other former workers.
Sageatook was fired on Monday as a power systems electrician, after 15 years at Qulliq Energy. He said he has already taken his concerns to the Nunavut Employees Union.
"My wife just quit her job and she's babysitting now," Sageatook said in an interview. "Without any income now, it will hurt us financially, really bad."
Cousins worked for Qulliq Energy for 16 years as a maintenance supervisor, but he said he is no longer working there after he was ordered to take a job with a third less pay and half the vacation time.
Suspended without pay
Cousins and Sageatook had been suspended without pay in January. Sageatook said Qulliq Energy officials told him he was exhibiting "disrespectful insubordinate behaviour."
Cousins said in addition to the 30-day suspension, he was ordered to attend an anger management course in Winnipeg. However, he said the course staff did not think he had anger issues.
When he returned to work, he was given a job offer to sign for the lower-level position. He said he refused to sign that offer.
"I was told that if I don't sign it, then I'll be a liability to the company and wouldn't be allowed back in the plant," Cousins said.
Both men said they have not had a job evaluation in years at the utility. Both said their troubles only started after they defended Inuit land-claim rights with regards to employment and policies at Qulliq Energy.
'I'm not going to walk away from this'
"I don't feel that I did anything wrong. I'm not going to walk away from this and I'm not going to let them brush it under the rug," Sageatook said.
"Well, I'm pretty much forced to take legal action now," said Cousins. "I got a hold of a lawyer, his name is Phil Hunt. He thinks that there's a pretty good case."
Hunt confirmed to CBC News that he is proceeding with Cousins's case.
Hunt, an Ottawa-based lawyer, is also representing Sarah Kucera and Amy Hynes, two former Qulliq Energy employees who have launched separate lawsuits against the utility.
Kucera and Hynes are seeking a combined total of $1.4 million in compensation and punitive damages for alleged mismanagement, breach of contract and constructive dismissal — allegations that Qulliq Energy denies.
A spokesperson for Qulliq Energy president Peter Mackey told CBC News that Mackey will not speak to specific employee issues, but he will talk later this week about overall concerns at the utility.