British Columbia

Thousands of city staff laid off in Vancouver, Surrey, Delta

With community centres and libraries closed and revenue shrinking, cities are having to make tough decisions.

Employees are from shuttered community centres, libraries, recreation facilities

Notice on door of Creekside Community Centre in Vancouver on March 16. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The City of Vancouver has laid off 1,500 staff to date, mainly workers at the community centres, libraries and theatres that have been closed in the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to deputy city manager Paul Mochrie.

Surrey has laid off even more — 1,900 part time and auxiliary staff members, and 140 regular staff members who worked at the city's now-closed recreation centres, libraries, ice rinks, museums, cultural centres and pools.

In Delta, 500 auxiliary and part-timers are also off the job, 90 per cent of them workers at now-closed community centres.

"It's a very difficult decision, but as mayor and leading council, we have to realize that we're in an economic situation that we've never been through before," said Delta Mayor George Harvie.

"We just cannot continue to have people working when there's no work for them."

Harvie said affected staff include lifeguards, front counter staff and building service workers.

Mochrie said those who have been laid off in Vancouver are getting pay protection of up to 42 days and a continuation of benefits for three months.

Surrey spokesperson Oliver Lum stressed that his city's layoffs are temporary, and said those affected will get 28 days of pay for part-time and auxiliary staff and 42 days of pay for regular staff.

Laid off Delta workers are also receiving pay and health benefits for a period of time.

Harvie believes more staff layoffs are likely.  

"Every city is facing the same problems with regard to  revenue," he said. "The longer this virus goes on, the more we'll have to shrink down to basic services."



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