North

Here's how much overtime Gov't of Nunavut employees earn

The Government of Nunavut paid out nearly $26 million in overtime in the 2015/16 fiscal year — an enormous amount, according to the territory's finance minister.

Nunavut paid out $26 million in overtime last fiscal year

The Government of Nunavut paid out more than $2 million more in overtime in the 2015/16 fiscal year compared to a year earlier. (CBC)

The Government of Nunavut paid out nearly $26 million in overtime in the 2015/16 fiscal year — an enormous amount according to the territory's finance minister.

Close to half of the overtime was earned by the Department of Health, which spent close to $1 million a month on overtime in the 2015/16 fiscal year. 

"I'm greatly concerned. My deputy minister and former deputy minister hear constantly from me about the enormous amount of overtime in all the government departments," said Finance Minister Keith Peterson during the fall sitting of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.

"$26 million — that's a port for Qikiqtarjuaq. Or that's a new health centre," said Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak.

"I'm trying to build an elder facility here [in Iqaluit]. That's almost half the cost we need for an elder facility."

How much overtime a civil servant earned varied widely between departments and whether or not an employee was working as a casual or as a permanent staff member.

Based on staffing levels provided by the Finance Department at the end of March 31, 2016, a casual employee of the Health Department was paid more than $18,500 in overtime in the 2015/16 fiscal year on average — $10,000 more than the average amount a permanent employee makes. 

In the Department of Justice, casual employees took home over $4,000 more than a permanent employee, earning more than $11,500 in overtime yearly.

The amount of overtime for each department, Crown corporation and agency was provided by the Ministry of Finance and tabled last week in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly. The numbers break down the amounts paid out to casual and permanent employees for the 2014/15 and the 2015/16 fiscal years.

The territory spent over $2 million more on overtime in the 2015/16 fiscal year than a year earlier.

Tired, stressed and overworked?

"We have a vacancy rate of over 1,100 employees – that might have something to do with it," Angnakak said.

Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak worries all the overtime hours could result in tired employees, affecting quality of service. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC )
"Maybe people just want to earn the extra income and so they volunteer. I don't know. And I don't know even if the government really knows."

Angnakak worries all the overtime hours could result in tired employees affecting service.

"You wouldn't want to have somebody look after you at the hospital if they've been on for 24 hours or more," she said.

"It would make me a little bit worried about what level of care I'm going to get just because that person's tired. Or being a guard at BCC, if you've done three shifts. What does that do?

"I'm just hoping that you have somebody really overseeing that because you don't want to get somebody so tired that they're not doing their job right."

Qulliq Energy top overtime earners 

The highest overtime earners in the Government of Nunavut were — by far — Qulliq Energy Corporation employees, taking home on average more than $26,000 last year. 

A QEC spokesperson said there are a few reasons why the corporation incurred overtime expenses, including retroactive overtime payments paid out after a new collective bargaining agreement was signed and emergency situations, which require long hours.

"Responding to the Pangnirtung power plant fire in April 2015 and to unplanned outages caused by QEC's aging power plant infrastructure are some of the events that contributed to QEC's overtime expenses," wrote Sheila Papa, QEC's manager of corporate communications.

Angnakak said she was not surprised by the total amount of overtime paid out in the last fiscal year, but she wants the Department of Finance to take a closer look at the numbers.

"They really do need to look at why we have such high numbers in overtime," she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Van Dusen is a journalist with CBC North based in Yellowknife. Find him on Twitter @jvdCBC.

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