Plans are underway to bring most GNWT employees back to their offices over the next four to six weeks, Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek, revealed on Friday.
“We have now been in phase 2 of Emerging Wisely for several weeks, and the senior management teams in your departments have been developing and finalizing plans to bring employees safely back to the worksite,” Wawzonek said.
While about 60 per cent of public service staff have already returned to work in cases where physical distancing, hand-washing and infection control have been practical, most of the remaining workers will return under a staggered format.
When phase two began on June 12, chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola said government offices would be permitted to reopen but that it could take time to organize.
Plans for the return to work will depend on the physical nature of worksites and their staffing levels so that adherence to Covid-19 health measures can be maintained.
Each management team will have to file an application with the chief public health officer that identifies what arrangements are being made to limit exposure to Covid-19 for staff and clients for individual worksites, according to the GNWT.
Not all GNWT employees will return to work in the near future due to existing health issues that put them at higher risk or because they have children at home.
“These employees will be permitted to continue to work from home until their circumstances change,” Wawzonek said.
The finance minister’s announcement comes as good news to the NWT Chamber of Commerce, who earlier in July expressed disappointment that many GNWT workers were still at home while NWT businesses were working to adapt to phase two restrictions.
In one of its calls to action, the Chamber urged the return of GNWT employees “to the workplace in ways consistent with the private sector.”
Jenni Bruce, president of the NWT Chamber of Commerce, welcomed Wawzonek’s announcement.
“We are happy to see some progress and feel this will help stimulate the centres of all communities in the NWT. It will help bring back some normalcy to everyone’s lives,” she said.