In a move that was perhaps inevitable, the City of Guelph announced Thursday that they are temporarily laying off 601 part-time and casual employees nearly one week after Mayor Cam Guthrie called for a state of emergency, and nearly four weeks after the closure of City facilities began.
“Our employees are the heart of our organization,” said Chief Administrative Officer Scott Stewart in a statement. “This is not an action we wanted to take but one we needed to as COVID-19 continues to affect our community and some of the services we’re able to deliver.”
The exact composition of the employees is unknown, but the City press release specifically mentions school crossing guards, programmers from parks and recreation, and some library workers. The City says that they will help employees access government aid whether that’s Employment Insurance, or the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
To put this into context, the City of Guelph says on the employment page of its website that the corporation is made up of 2,000 full and part-time staff members. That means the City just laid off 30 per cent of its work force.
According to the City of Guelph, there are about 800 part-time workers with the organization. When the pandemic started forcing the closure of Guelph facilities, the City tried to keep staff working in other capacities, but now the City says it’s adapting to deliver vital community services while being fiscally responsibly within the new economic reality.
“We remain committed to providing the critical and essential services our community relies on every day as we continue responding to this unprecedented situation,” added Stewart.
Guelph isn’t alone in making this move.
In Windsor yesterday, 541 staff members, including indoor staff at City facilities and frontline customer service staff, were laid off. At the other end of the province in Kingston, an unspecified number of part-time and temporary employees, including 55 transit drivers, have received notices that they will be laid off starting April 12.
At the more extreme end of municipal job action, the City of Calgary announced that they were laying off 1,200 on-call, part-time and temporary workers in recreation and neighbourhood business units earlier this week. The City of Edmonton went harder than that and laid off 1,600 employees, plus another 489 workers at the Edmonton Public Library.
Last week, the City of Guelph announced that all facilities will remain closed until April 30.