Payday as promised: Nunavut workers to see cheques Friday

Government of Nunavut confirmed today its 5,010 employees will be paid on time.


Kent Driscoll
In what is likely a giant relief for its more than 5,000 employees, the government of Nunavut confirms it can issue paycheques on time despite a crippling ransomware attack on its main computer network.

Officials expect to meet Friday’s scheduled payday for 5,010 workers, the territory said on its Facebook page, with the exception of “cheques issued for employees without direct deposit in communities outside Iqaluit (that) may arrive on Monday November 18.”

Those 5010 employees represent 37 per cent of everyone with a job in Nunavut.

The government was forced to shut down its network on Nov. 2, after the ransomware attack, which locks files until a ransom is paid.

Since then, all government computers and email addresses have been offline.

Reformatting every work station

To get back online, the government has begun reformatting every work station –  although it says anything stored locally instead of on the main network is now lost.

It notes whatever was saved before Oct. 31 and backed up to the main network survived.

“All departments’ back-ups, as of October 31 have been recovered and the data is ready to be restored,” the government said in a statement.

The government has identified the departments of health, finance, family services, education and justice as its main priorities.

In health, both the Meditech and Telehealth systems remain offline.

Meditech is the system that lets health centres send medical images to southern-based specialists, while Telehealth is a video-conferencing system for southern doctors to neet with clients remotely.

The government says it can’t confirm how many Telehealth appointments were missed, because that information was on the network that is still being restored.

Food vouchers instead of cheques

Meanwhile, social assistance clients – more than 14,000 Nunavummiut receive some form of social services – are still receiving food vouchers instead of cheques.

The government is promising an update on that before the end of the week.

But it still doesn’t know how much the shutdown is costing.

Along with the added expense of flying Telehealth patients South at government expense, officials say the financial ripple effects still need to be determined.

It says Health and Information Technology workers are logging extended hours, and it has issued at least one emergency sole-source contract to FireEye (a leading security expert on ransomware intrusion).

However, it won’t release the pricetag yet because it says the project is ongoing.

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Editor’s Note: The original story said that Nunavut’s voicemail system was down. That system was restored shortly after this story was published. 

Video Journalist / Iqaluit

Kent has been APTN’s Nunavut correspondent since 2007. In that time he has closely covered Inuit issues, including devolution and the controversial Nutrition North food subsidy. He has also worked for CKIQ-FM in Iqaluit and as a reporter for Nunavut News North.