While support for the Nats’ejee K’eh Treatment Centre swelled in Hay River after the announcement of its upcoming closure this fall, union official Leon Nason is claiming the root cause of the facility’s staffing issues is a negative work environment.
“The minister said there were problems retaining qualified people,” Nason, president of Local 6 of the Union of Northern Workers (UNW), told The Hub. “Lots of members were qualified, but if there’s a negative work environment, they’re not going to stay.”
While the specifics of the grievances are confidential, Nason said it is common for unionized staff to be unhappy with how they are treated by the centre’s management.
The centre employed 15 union staff, along with three or four people in management, according to Nason, but had shed at least five union positions in the last few years.
In a statement issued last week, Health and Social Services Minister Tom Beaulieu said the centre’s funding is being cut partly in order to make way for increased on-the-land and culturally-relevant programs for addictions counselling.
Nason claimed such programming had been phased out at Nats’ejee K’eh, which is located on the Hay River Reserve.
“Those positions were cut,” he said. “I’m baffled as local president about the traditional healing for clients. It was in place in the past, but it was all removed over the last two or three years.”
According to Nason, Nats’ejee K’eh has been the source of the majority of the grievances he has filed, totaling over 20 in the last five years, but the UNW has a pretty good track record in getting settlements for its members.
“The union has been very successful in dealing with collective agreement concerns at the Nats’ejee K’eh Treatment Centre,” he said. “We’ve won them all so far.”
Nason said there are still outstanding grievances for current staff members.
Local governments and organizations have been queuing up to add their support for the Nats’ejee K’eh Treatment Centre and its staff.
Last week, Hay River town council instructed administration to send a letter to not only Beaulieu, but the premier and surrounding communities as well, stating support for the centre and the 20 people currently employed there.
Wally Schumann, president of the Hay River Metis Council, also drafted a letter to Beaulieu asking him to come to Hay River to explain to residents the reasoning behind the decision.
The letter states that the Hay River Metis Council and the Hay River Interagency wish to meet the minister and his officials to discuss the closing of Nats’ejee K’eh. “And what lies ahead for the facility and to hear what your department’s new plans are around treatment for all citizens of the NWT.”
K’atlodeeche First Nation Chief Roy Fabian declined to comment on the matter.
— Sarah Ladik