December 11, 2023

Mediation talks to resolve tensions between Nunavik Hudson Bay nurses and their employer have concluded, and a representative from Inuulitsivik Health Centre says she is optimistic about the future.

The discussions began in March following months of protest from the Northern Union of Hudson Bay Nurses. The Inuulitsivik health network is responsible for operations at seven health centres along the Hudson coast, from Kuujjuaraapik to Salluit.

The union’s leaders have been calling on Inuulitsivik since July 2022 to address what they say are poor working conditions made more challenging by staffing shortages.

Nurses walked off the job in January but that protest was shut down within hours by a provincial labour tribunal.

Weeks later, the nurses petitioned for Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé to directly intervene in the dispute.

Juliette Rolland, a senior adviser in Inuulitsivik’s executive management, said the talks were positive and will result in more flexibility for workers with roots in the south. However, details of the resolutions are under a non-disclosure agreement.

The talks concluded March 28, and the union had a private members’ meeting two days later. The Quebec government appointed the mediator.

Rolland said nurses will soon be able to expect more trips to and from the south so they can spend more time with their families back home.

That benefit would ease burnout, she said.

“Nine-week shifts can be hard on someone that has a family down south,” she said in a phone interview.

“So we are going to offer considerably shorter periods of time up north and then holidays … That’s really for better personal life and family balance.”

Rolland said she hopes the measures can make working in the North more attractive to nurses who might be hesitant to take jobs in isolated communities.

Recruitment and retention of staff has been a challenge for the health centre in recent months.

Rolland said management has not yet heard back from the union.

Cyril Gabreau, president of the Northern Union of Hudson Bay Nurses, has not yet responded to a request for comment on mediation talks.

Reached by phone at the Salluit clinic where he works as a nurse, Gabreau said he received Nunatsiaq News’ email but needed time to review some information before responding.

Rolland said it might be a challenging few weeks before changes are implemented, and some communities’ clinics may periodically only provide emergency services.

She encourages people to follow Inuulitsivik’s Facebook page for updates, and to call their local clinic with any questions about their specific health needs.

Regardless, Rolland said, she’s hopeful about what’s to come for the health network. She said Inuulitsivik is a great place to work, but hopes changes can reinvent what it means to be a northern employee.

“Most of the time, you see a bit less patients, so you have better and deeper relationships with them, and to live in the Nordic community is also an amazing experience, but it does come also with inconvenience,” she said.

“What we are working [toward] is really to have more flexibility and to be able to conjugate these two lifestyles: to have a life up North and to have a life down south, and it’s going to work together and you’re not going to feel like you’re missing something much.”


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