Over 200 more City of Guelph employees are out of a job because of COVID-19. In an announcement made Friday afternoon, the City is temporarily putting 127 full-time employees on declared emergency leave temporarily. On top of that, most of the library’s staff is also being put on temporary leave, which all told means that about half to the City’s staff is now out of work because of the pandemic.
These latest employment measures come just two weeks after the City laid off 601 part-time and casual employees. The new cuts cover 127 full-time employees, both union and non-union, and they’re from across the organization with the exception of water, wastewater, waste pickup, transit, and first responders.
The City expects to save just over $1 million from the furloughs, $320,000 from the original lay-offs at the beginning of the month, plus an additional $745,000 with today’s announcement.
“These additional staffing changes reflect the severity of the fiscal challenges Guelph is facing as it manages the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chief Administrative Officer Scott Stewart in a statement. “Today’s decision is a painful one; our employees are the heart of our organization and they work hard every day to serve our community. But this global pandemic has deeply affected the work we’re able to deliver, and like it has for so many organizations, it’s had a significant impact on the City’s financial sustainability.”
The 127 laid off by the City were augmented with the another announcement Friday that 120 employees of the Guelph Public Library, the majority of their work force, will be put on emergency leave starting April 25. The Library’s Board of Directors made the decision at their meeting Thursday, according to a media notice.
“We value our amazing staff and are proud of their contributions each and every day in our community. This is a tough decision for everyone,” said Steven Kraft, Guelph Public Library Chief Executive Officer in a statement. “We will continue to deliver exceptional library experiences through new virtual programming, enhanced digital collections, increased learning resources to support your families and offering customer support during this time.”
Back at City Hall, the media release says that council made the decision at its emergency meeting on Thursday. If you watched the meeting, and can’t remember when it was discussed, that’s because it was a closed meeting item. Item #6.2 called “COVID-19 Response – Staff Considerations” was debated in camera due to information “relating to personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees and labour relations or employee negotiations.”
“In these extraordinarily difficult times, Guelph City Council is tasked with balancing our responsibility to City staff, who are the backbone of our organization and who we care very deeply about, with our fiscal responsibility to Guelph’s taxpayers and the community we serve,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie in a statement. “On behalf of Council, my message to all City staff is this: this decision has not been made lightly. We value you and we appreciate your hard work and dedication to our residents.”
The City says that they’re helping staff access the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) from the Federal government, and that all staff members will maintain their health benefits while on leave.
“I want our employees to know this is short-term and that when the world emerges on the other side of this virus, we’ll get you back to work in a heartbeat,” Stewart added.