Whitehorse Daily Star

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YEU president Steve Geick and Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee

Bonuses designed to retain, recruit nurses

In a territory-wide effort to recruit and keep nurses, the Department of Health and Social Services announced retention packages and signing bonuses for Yukon government nurses Thursday.

By Ethan Lycan-Lang on December 2, 2022

In a territory-wide effort to recruit and keep nurses, the Department of Health and Social Services announced retention packages and signing bonuses for Yukon government nurses Thursday.

The $6-million package comes after more than a year of contentious negotiations between the government and the union representing its nurses.

It also comes during a nationwide labour shortage in health care that’s made it difficult to hold enough doctors and nurses in the territory.

Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee told the legislative assembly in October that the vacancy rate for community nursing in the territory exceeds 40 per cent.

“These new bonuses will help retain our valued nurses and make the Yukon more competitive in recruiting and retaining nurses in a very challenging labour market,” McPhee said in a news release.

Included in the package is an immediate bonus of $15,000 for the territory’s registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs), and $8,000 for licensed practical nurses (LPNs).

Those payments will be repeated in a retention bonus package in April 2023.

To incentivize professionals to work in the Yukon, signing bonuses will be offered to new RNs and NPs ($7,500) as well as LPNs ($4,500).

And nursing graduates who come work for the government will have their exam fees reimbursed. The government already reimburses licensing fees for new nursing graduates it hires. 

There will also be $10,000 bonuses for Primary Care Nurses and Primary Care Nurses in Charge working in the communities. 

All these bonuses will be offered over the next two years, according to Thursday’s release.

The package does not apply to nurses not employed by the government, like those working for the Yukon Hospital Corp.

Jerome Marburg, CEO of the Yukon Registered Nurses Association, said he couldn’t comment on the details of the new package.

He did say, “YRNA is delighted by anything that could bring long-term, stable health care workers in Yukon.”

He said recruitment and retention efforts are needed right now for the good of health care workers and Yukoners alike.

Thursday’s announcement was the result of long, grinding negotiations with the Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU), which represents government nurses.

Talks started back in fall of 2021, and they didn’t stop with Thursday’s announcement.

The union is still negotiating salaries for nurses and other government employees, like Emergency Medical Service workers and corrections staff. 

YEU president Steve Geick told the Star Thursday this new package was negotiated earlier after McPhee forced the union’s hand.

“The reason that this got dealt with the way it did was because McPhee leaked it in the house (legislature), which brought it into the public, which should never have happened,” he said Thursday.

During question period on Oct. 18, McPhee was asked how many extra shifts hospital nurses were having to cover each week.

McPhee said she’d have to look up the numbers. She then mentioned that the government had “brought forward an extensive package” for nurse recruitment and retention, and that it was being discussed with the YEU.

The next day, the YEU issued a release criticizing the minister for what it termed negotiating in public.

The union said discussions over the package McPhee mentioned in the legislature had ended the day it was offered.

“Throwing together a ‘recruitment and retention package’ of one-off bonuses which are neither pensionable nor reflected in severance is an insult, and won’t solve the problem of short staffing,” YEU’s Oct. 19 release read.

“Other regions have done the work to enshrine higher pay in compensation packages, making the Yukon’s signing bonuses far less attractive a recruitment tool than the minister believes.”

The next week, McPhee told the legislature the release was full of inaccuracies, and Yukon Party MLAs grilled her in question period for “picking a public fight with nurses.”

Geick told the Star the union felt the matter “had to be dealt with” once the recruitment and retention package offer was discussed in the assembly and the media.

He said the union was concerned negotiations would continue in public if an agreement wasn’t reached quickly at the bargaining table.

Now that a deal’s been reached on a recruitment and retention package, Geick said he’s happy nurses will receive bonuses, but the union still wants wage increases for nurses and other government employees.

He said that’s “the real meat” of the talks, and those discussions will begin again Dec. 14.

He said bonuses don’t offer a permanent incentive for recruitment and retention, nor do they properly compensate government employees.

“Now it’s basically up to the employer to go back and see what kind of money they can get,” Geick said.

“They seemed to be able to get the $6 million for nursing pretty quick.

“So I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to extend the same type of increases to the rest of the Yukon government employees that in some instances have worked through the pandemic, as nurses have, short-handed.”

The Star asked McPhee for an interview or comment for this article. Her office said the news release was sufficient for information on the new package and the Minister is unable to discuss negotiations while they’re ongoing.

Comments (41)

Up 4 Down 1

Yes, Stop with the lies on Dec 8, 2022 at 8:46 pm

Of course ZERO nurses [or other govt employees] in the Yukon got fired for failing to get immunized, because they were placed on indefinite leave without pay or benefits, or access to EI, if they refused the C0vax shot.
Technically not fired, just like technically you all volunteered for the jab, so the govt is not liable for any adverse side effects you may ever have.
Safe & effective?

Up 2 Down 0

Calvin and Hobbes on Dec 8, 2022 at 7:14 pm

We get you Roy on Dec 8, 2022 at 11:24 am… But there has to be Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DIE). One must DIE to comply. When you apply equity to outcomes then education, experience, knowledge, and expertise are irrelevant.

This is awesome! No more school, no more books, no more teachers dirty looks. We can congregate in our little rainbow pods, play a couple of rounds of Pokémon Go, Tweet some twits, smoke some marijuana, and wait for the monthly government bank deposit to hit the account.

Up 12 Down 3

Roy on Dec 8, 2022 at 11:24 am

Can't believe this needs to be said but here goes:

Just because two employees have the same education doesn't automatically mean they should be paid the same. Ever hear of job responsibilities and work conditions?
A person with a high school diploma pouring coffee at Starbucks shouldn't make the same as a person with a high school diploma breaking their back doing commercial fishing or working in forestry - and with good reason.

And two nurses with the same education shouldn't make the same if the responsibilities and demands of their jobs are different. This shouldn't be a concept anyone struggles with.
The nurses doing overnight shifts in the emergency room deserve a lot of pay - a lot more than a nurse in a high school working weekdays 9-4 with summers off.

The fact that this needs to be explained to someone suggests why that person may not be in a role with a higher level of responsibility. You can get a university degree with straight C grades - doesn't mean you're on 100% on par with your straight A classmates.

Up 3 Down 6

Stop with the lies on Dec 8, 2022 at 9:27 am


Why post anything Joe when you can be so easily proven wrong with a fact check.
ZERO nurses in the Yukon got fired for failing to get immunized. ZERO.

Up 6 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Dec 8, 2022 at 9:06 am

It's not about which minister did what to put a bandaid on our healthcare system, it about ensuring the Yukon has the skilled and talented nurses needed to deliver a quality standard of care. It's not like the ministers put any time and effort into new ideas, the department staff do all that and they steal good ideas from other jurisdictions.
It has been known for a long time that competition for these caring and skilled nurses is high and a number of tactics have been tried to lure them to relocate. Signing bonuses, higher wages and benefits, housing incentives and similar enticements have been tried. What can/does the Yukon offer to attract these nurses to relocate here and be happy campers doing their jobs? Has anybody asked them or is this another consultation to be avoided?

Up 4 Down 12

Yukoner92 on Dec 7, 2022 at 7:12 pm

Hey Yukon Lady, if you think gun control is just wasting billions of dollars, perhaps you would be happier living in the U.S. where they have very little gun control and almost daily mass shootings and kids killing each other. There is a reason that 99% of developed countries have gun control.

Oh and if you think that legal guns are never used for nefarious purposes, just look at what happened at Air North recently or the murders in Faro a few years ago. Those were "law abiding citizens" with legal guns fyi.

I'm not saying that hunters should have their rifles taken from them, but don't pretend that gun control has no positive affects on society.

Up 19 Down 4

Yukon Lady on Dec 7, 2022 at 8:32 am

Why not look at Justin Trudeau's proposed Bill C21 firearms band and the billions of dollars wasted on controlling the law abiding citizens who have gone through stringent checks for the privilege of acquiring firearms licenses. Why not invest this $$ into Medial and Nursing schools? Thank you.

Up 12 Down 1

Yukon Lady on Dec 7, 2022 at 8:28 am

I'd like to propose that improved working conditions (eg more nursing staff on per shift) and equitable pay for equitable work would go far to retain nurses. (eg. YTG nurses get remunerated far less per hour than WGH nurses- A wage gap of 7 dollars or more per hour for top wage earners. (for example, nurses working day jobs for YTG only get $48 per hour whereas WGH nurses get over $55/hour. This does not include weekend/evening/night premiums WGH nurses make in addition to this wage differential). WGH nurse salaries far exceeds the 15 K YTG nurses are receiving in bonuses this year. WGH nurses consistently make greater wages than YTG nurses (eg. minimal of 15 K more each year (based on fulltime) for working only days, not including shift differentials after 4 pm). Why not remunerate equal pay for equal work? This would go far to retain and recruit nurses in this Territory. Thank you.

Up 12 Down 1

Fredia on Dec 7, 2022 at 8:21 am

I don’t think it’s fair either or a good strategy to retain nurses. I’d like to see more equitable pay between public health and Continuing Care Nurses ( Home care and facility) and our pay brought up to par with hospital nurses. We are all educated more or less the same so why such a wage disparity?

Up 28 Down 3

not a fan on Dec 6, 2022 at 2:10 pm

Just because mac phee is "educated" doesn't mean she is smart. If stupidity was a disability I know some people who would be getting monthly checks.

Up 17 Down 4

ElleEye on Dec 6, 2022 at 8:44 am

Oh Yukon...ya'll are going to hell in a hand basket...what a sh** show. Corrupt Ministers, willy nilly spending that makes no sense, cover ups at the tragic detriment of children. Glad I'm not there anymore, and yes, bring on the comments to say "glad you're not here too!".

What a screwed up bubble it is up there....makes me sad for the people up there I love.

Up 15 Down 6

yukonmom on Dec 6, 2022 at 8:04 am

The hospital nurses need recognition and support and $$. The rest of YTGs employees are just not in the same situation. Please do not include them in the conversation... it is an insult to the nurses. A neighbour experienced a huge difference between the local nurses and the contract nurses. Give our local nurses what they need to be able to keep their physical and mental health.

Up 16 Down 3

Dave on Dec 6, 2022 at 6:40 am

At least I know Tracy isn’t taking my guns. She can’t go up my stairs.

Up 9 Down 15

Yukoner92 on Dec 5, 2022 at 9:02 pm

Sorry John, but if your main beef with her is over the Hidden Valley abuse, it's hard to take you seriously. McPhee's biggest mistake was happening to be in power when the crimes were uncovered. The pedophile was harming kids long before McPhee's time. It started back under the Yukon Party when Currie Dixon, Scott Kent and Brad Cathers were Cabinet Ministers. The guy was even caught doing stuff in 2015 or 2016 but the pedophile was somehow allowed to continue working in the department. If they had gotten rid of him back then, no kids would have been abused in the following years and we wouldn't be talking about this. But I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you don't have the same scorn for the Yukon Party despite them being more responsible for what happened than McPhee.

Oh and you mentioned her being voted to step down. That was pure political games from the other political parties. There were 3 or 4 investigations into what happened and none of them had been completed by that point, so their vote was clearly based on politics instead of evidence.

Up 19 Down 13

bonanzajoe on Dec 5, 2022 at 7:28 pm

If the Liberals hadn't of fired all those nurses etc. for not getting vaccinated, this wouldn't be necessary.

Up 45 Down 7

John on Dec 5, 2022 at 10:52 am

@ Haters Gonna Hate on Dec 3, 2022 at 9:53 pm

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones!

Your McPhee lacks "ethical behaviour" that borders on criminality, IMHO. The cover up at Hidden Valley School was not/is not the hallmark of someone who you want to put on a pedestal, unless it is to chastise and to set an example of how not to behave. She set up her own colleague to take the heat when everything started to unravel. My she is so wonderful the Legislature voted to have her removed as a Minister from Cabinet.

Best my friend you be bloody careful about who you tie your star to. She may be educated BUT that does not mean it comes with high ethics. I wouldn't believe anything that comes thing she utters, even if her tongue came notarized.

Up 21 Down 14

Hi Pocked Chrissy on Dec 5, 2022 at 9:48 am

Dear Wheres my bonus for staying on Dec 2, 2022 at 6:00 pm:

Welcome to the Idiocracy! Where some citizens wage psychological warfare on the other citizens in a contest for more power every few years or so. The collective name for the electorate is, Idyot. The y is used to denote the diminutive form of Idiot - The difference is

They want human-widgets. Individuals with no other identity than the one they are assigned and with no other thought than the ones they are allowed, and conditioned to accept as supportive of the official narrative.

We just came through 2-3 years of the largest social experiment known to peoplekind - A long psyop with all the twists and turns of a Tarantino film.

Living La vida hypocrisy… Inside out, upside down, living La vida hipocresía!

Up 31 Down 8

The prejudice of hate on Dec 5, 2022 at 8:37 am

Dear Haters Gonna Hate on Dec 3, 2022 at 9:53 pm:

Do you know about the link between false positivity and poor mental health outcomes? It’s significant.
But why do you get to label it “hate”? It sounds like you have motive. It’s a word that most people would not intentionally assign to their own motivations. Your label is dismissively invalidating.

People, many people, and the entire squad of MLAs except Silver voted her out - But she refused to leave. I have never seen such a sustained and prolonged address of ministerial behaviour in my life.

She is a big, big part of the reason for the negative perceptions of the current government. It really is bizarre and it is an indication of the contempt with which she views democracy which is mirrored by Silver’s continued support… And Kate, well, by what other means would she have achieved the power she currently exercises over the public?

The current state of our political system is a chaos. A nepotistic, orgy of political malfeasance and anti-democratic sentiment - Get in line and keep your mouth shut, your Social Credit Score will be assigned shortly.

Up 33 Down 5

BnR on Dec 5, 2022 at 6:46 am

They’ve got 22 million (and it’s guaranteed to be way more than that) for a new sports faculty for the entitled gymnasts, but can only round up 6 million for health care that ALL Yukoners need.
All about keeping the big party donors happy I guess.

Up 14 Down 6

Josey Wales on Dec 4, 2022 at 7:04 pm

Hmmm...gotta say zero complaints from me with our medical staff.
Some of the clients...whoooole other rant on that topic...for another day!

They might as well be American Marines with what they do, whilst doing without. Been deep into this topic from many angles.

What as per taints the system, are political and union blowholes. Very fine line separate that tandem, they have much in common.
With out gaslighting, they’d have to work far harder behind the curtain to keep Oz.
No one has your best interest at stake better than y’all...fact!
Let us calve from blowholes in general, they are toxic vile players in what is a actual deadly game...but no game!
...or carry on looking at the shiny things, nothing else going on out there.
...like a fish, beware of the shiny things dangled in your zone.

Up 44 Down 5

Max Mack on Dec 4, 2022 at 1:22 pm

This is a very generous gift for GY-employed nurses, but will do little to retain nurses -- especially in the communities. Nurses in the communities are already making fistfuls of cash due to overtime, etc. Cash is not the problem.

The problem with working in the communities is the communities . . . No amenities and all the other problems that come with working in the communities -- problems I won't discuss here, but anyone that has been there will know. Nurses that do work in the communities typically want to relocate to Whitehorse after a few years.

Another problem area for nursing retention is the long-term care facilities. Most of those nurses are also looking to transfer into -- how shall I call it -- a more "aesthetically pleasing" job. Again, cash is not the problem.

I can't help but wonder if the real purpose of this gift is to make Geick look like he won something. Will the union give in on the severance issue?

Up 40 Down 9

AdmiralA$$ on Dec 4, 2022 at 10:34 am

For people with real education and skill what you make is only30% of the value of your job. There are many things to consider such as location and accomodation. There is nothing here for high skilled workers and no accomodation for them.

Remember they are skilled and can get a job anywhere. Unlike our fabulous government workers.

Up 21 Down 61

Haters Gonna Hate on Dec 3, 2022 at 9:53 pm

To all the people making nasty comments about Mcphee, please know that she is at least a well educated lawyer or who was also previously the Yukon's Ombudsman. Whatever you think of her, she is a smart and accomplished woman.
Now compare that to the two previous Yukon Party Health Ministers. We had Mike Nixon, who is currently an anti-vaxx campaigner for the 'freedom' movement in Ontario. Before that I believe we had Brad Cathers who went from feeding sled dogs in Lake Laberge for a living to Health Minister overnight. No private sector experience and zero education.

But by all means, keep believing that we would be better off without McPhee. Which province or territory has a better healthcare system than Yukon right now by the way?? It's not great here, but let's not pretend its better elsewhere at the moment. Nurses are out protesting the government in Ontario for example, "Unions and doctors have said the bill has contributed to the health-care crises in Ontario, which has seen droves of nurses and personal support workers recently leave the profession" https://torontosun.com/news/provincial/ontario-court-strikes-down-wage-limiting-law-for-public-sector-workers

Or here is a quote from Alberta "The union says issues that existed prior to COVID-19 — nursing shortage, the relationship between the government and healthcare workers — were inflamed by the pandemic." https://globalnews.ca/news/9178513/alberta-nurses-frontline-health-stress-botox-pcn/

Up 59 Down 5

Trainwreck on Dec 3, 2022 at 12:32 pm

So when the good minister is compelled to disclose, they cover-up. When they are bound to confidence, they spill the tea. When do we clue in to when ‘mistakes’ are pathological traits of a character infused with fundamental traits that make them unfit for purpose?

Minister McPhee, please retire. The example set by your leadership continues to bring down the proper functioning of the Yukon. At the very least, the scandals are a massive distraction to the government’s refusal to tackle the real issue: firing incompetent workers at any level.

Up 31 Down 13

Leaky on Dec 3, 2022 at 10:15 am

It’s a start for nurses, but when they can go next door to NWT for over 20% more salary and bonuses it’s still not enough.

Up 33 Down 45

Anonymous on Dec 3, 2022 at 9:08 am

Stop forcing nurses to get the fake vaccine. You'll retain a lot more that way.

Up 55 Down 8

Matthew on Dec 3, 2022 at 6:23 am

Whys is Mcphee still around !?

Up 54 Down 12

Far Canal on Dec 3, 2022 at 3:54 am

Why, in the name of all that is holy, is McPhee, the human equivalent of a chocolate fire-guard, STILL a “minister”?

Up 22 Down 18

Yukoner on Dec 2, 2022 at 10:55 pm

This package sounds like a joke. Nurses deserve so much more. The things they gotta put up with. The cost of living here is insane. Maybe some type of housing bonus as well would be nice. $2000 month or more is $24,000 yr in rent. Not worth it if you ask me.

Up 41 Down 6

Yukoner59 on Dec 2, 2022 at 10:07 pm

If the YEU is upset, that means the government did the right thing. Steve Geick is very greasy and it appears that he is the one who got greased this time haha.

As far as I'm concerned, the nurses deserved this. Geick is being ridiculous and unreasonable by demanding similar benefits for all YG workers. As other commentors pointed out, things weren't nearly as hard on them and they all got to keep their jobs unlike the private sector. Hopefully YG holds out and does not give in to Geick's new demands.

Up 50 Down 10

Juniper Jackson on Dec 2, 2022 at 9:01 pm

I was in emerge tonight. The waiting area was filled with drunks, yelling for where' my doctor, and others with their beer and pizza. And that was at 5:30. Nursing and doctoring has got to be the ugliest job there is, unless you are delivering babies. There was me, and one other person that I would say takes a bath every day..or even once in a while.

Pay them anything they want. Float mortgages so they can buy a house..rich? After medical school, buy into a clinic..a 20 year professional can likely pay the amount of housing these days, but, student loans, bank loans, fees, exams, paying off clinic fees, and trying to pay for a family on top of that.. some can, many can't.. then they put up with so much crap, and do the ugly stuff.. Give them whatever they want.

Up 30 Down 28

Dave on Dec 2, 2022 at 7:50 pm

That's right - more money for government workers because they've got it so very tough.

Up 30 Down 7

Dianne on Dec 2, 2022 at 6:18 pm

Sounds more like an incentive for all current nursing staff to quit and then come back for the bonuses..nothing like dividing your staff and creating an unequal work force.. maybe YG should look at other avenues such as allowing older staff to reduce hours thereby allowing them to stay longer. A number if nurses retired due to burn out and long shifts causing them to miss out on family events and for some long shifts caused increased physical stress and injuries. Throwing bonuses is not a great solution. Maybe find a way to work with the staff, engage them in solutions. I mean actively engage and listen, do not just pretend to care....

Up 36 Down 7

Wheres my bonus for staying on Dec 2, 2022 at 6:00 pm

This is a great idea. What PSAC YEU needs to do now is demand retention bonuses for all nurses, Yukon Hospital Corp and YG wide. Don't forget the allied health people too- Lab techs, imaging techs, MRI, pharmacists, therapists. The reality is the majority of health care workers in the Yukon are getting jack sh** to stay here- yet we are paying more for cost of living and since the majority of us were trained and raised in other parts of Canada- what is YG/YEU/YHC doing to keep us here? Nothing.
If John Q public wants to know why the quality of local healthcare is actually going down- it's because we are leaving, planning to leave or are working OT or with under trained and under qualified contract health care workers just to keep the lights on!
They need to Start getting serious about retention and recruitment- or there will be no experienced people here to onboard and train these new healthcare workers because we will all leave for our bonuses elsewhere.

Up 26 Down 11

Tax payer on Dec 2, 2022 at 4:39 pm

If there are two things I am sure about is a union and the Liberal/NDP alliance and neither one is good for production regarding getting sh** done, other than that perhaps the nurses shouldn’t have to put up with abuse from the 5% of the population that utilizes 75% of their time, if the government had a set of balls……

Up 54 Down 16

Nurse Ratchett on Dec 2, 2022 at 3:58 pm

I encourage all nurses currently employed to quit so they can sign up for this bonus payment. Nice divide and conquer strategy. Nurse Ratchett from Ontario with her Cocaine/Meth habit will be ready to go but the Yukon Nurses in place will be behind the 8-ball…

What’s in your care package?

Up 62 Down 8

Thomas Brewer on Dec 2, 2022 at 3:53 pm

What's the mechanism for this? Are nurses able to collect the $15k and still leave? Is it paid out after a year? Clawback for departing early?

Seems like a gift vs long term retention.

Up 50 Down 14

Unhappy Camper on Dec 2, 2022 at 3:52 pm

Very pleased for the nurses.

Now, could the fee-sucking Union actually do something for the thousands of other members and finish the bargaining already. Beyond embarrassing.

Up 36 Down 14

Wilf Carter on Dec 2, 2022 at 3:17 pm

It is not bonus but working hours conditions, treatment, etc. A lot of nurses have young families like female doctors and want time off with their kids. This Nova Scotia minister does not get it. The issue money helps but does not solve the problem such as cost of housing, cost of living in Yukon, etc. I am from Nova Scotia and came here in 1986. Yukon needs a short-and long-term solution like getting more Yukoners to be trained in our needs for the future. This minister does not have it at all.

Up 94 Down 22

Olav on Dec 2, 2022 at 3:13 pm

Nurses and Doctors yes.

But are you kidding me with the rest of YG employees?
The pandemic gave them more time off than could ever be imagined.
This “working from home” scenario was totally out of hand.
Most were still in their pj’s at noon!

The reality is that we could probably cut the YG workforce by 1/3 and never know they were gone.
It would also solve the housing crisis here in the Yukon by reducing the number of residents up here.

Up 83 Down 9

Yukon2015 on Dec 2, 2022 at 3:04 pm

Could someone tell me why the Whitehorse hospital nurses are not included in this overdue package?

One more question, why is McPhee who is very incompetent at the best of times in charge of any Ministry department?

If I were a hospital nurse, my notice would have been already delivered, starting at the YTG and getting my signing bonus and retention package.

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