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Suspended for speaking out

Hamlet says worker disciplined for breaking procedure

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Aug 07/02) - A hamlet worker was suspended for three days without pay after telling Kivalliq News that he is dissatisfied with his relationship with his boss.

Herman Bruce is a heavy-duty mechanic who works for Rankin Inlet. He complained that he is not given enough assistance with some of his duties. He also said he felt that administration does not listen to its workers, and that there is a disconnect between the hamlet and its garage.

After talking to the newspaper, Bruce was suspended for three days. He returned to work July 29 at 2 p.m.

Bruce was disciplined for stepping outside of the normal complaint process at the hamlet, said senior administrator Ron Roach. The employee had appealed a letter of reprimand given him by Roach.

"There is no policy that states they can't speak with the media," said Roach. "But in the union agreement there's a process in place if you have a grievance." A complaint must first be made to the senior administrator, then to the hamlet and finally through arbitration.

"If (the individual is) not satisfied after going through those three steps, then they have a right ... to do whatever they want," he said.

"We don't want the public all upset with the hamlet if things that are stated are not exactly true," Roach added. "The hamlet has absolutely nothing to hide whatsoever."

Roach responded to Bruce's accusations by saying that he has "a very good relationship with 95 per cent of my employees."

Deputy mayor Lavinia Brown said chains of command must be respected in the hamlet.

However, she would not say definitively whether it was legitimate to punish an employee for speaking with the media.

"I don't know where to draw the line, because they (hamlet employees) do have a reporting relationship with their supervisors," she said.

Bruce is the only mechanic in the hamlet's garage, and said "75 per cent of the time it's a two-man job. To work effectively ... I need two people. ... This is heavy equipment, it's not just holding up a pen."

He said he installed a lift cylinder for a D-6 bulldozer by himself. The cylinder weighs about 150 kilograms, and Bruce had to lift it over his head to put it in place. Bruce said when he asked for an assistant he was told there was not enough money.

Roach countered that, saying "any time they need assistance with heavy equipment we always provide them with assistance."

Bruce said he was provided with an assistant when he replaced the track on the D-6.

Roach said that following Bruce's complaints, the hamlet will work with the Department of Community Government and Transportation to conduct a full review of hamlet maintenance records and create specific guidelines for equipment maintenance .

He added, "you're not going to please everybody all the time. And if you are you must be doing something wrong."