Edmonton

City of Edmonton lays off 900 more workers in COVID-19 response

The City of Edmonton is laying off another 900 employees in response to reduced transit service and lower demand for administrative services, interim city manager Adam Laughlin announced Monday. 

Nearly half of those being temporarily laid off are transit operators

The City of Edmonton has laid off temporarily 3,000 staff since March.

The City of Edmonton is temporarily laying off another 900 employees in response to reduced transit service and lower demand for administrative services, interim city manager Adam Laughlin announced Monday. 

Nearly half of the laid-off staff are transit operators, Laughlin told a news conference at city hall.

Others being laid off include staff whose jobs are in administration, analytics, community liaison, human resources, technology, training and other services across all city departments. 

"We must cut back, and today we are," Laughlin said. "The decisions today were difficult but necessary." 

The city has now laid off 3,000 staff in relation to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions since late March. On March 30, officials announced temporary layoffs for 1,600 city employees. At the same time, the Edmonton Public Library laid off nearly 500 others.

These staff have the opportunity to be redeployed to other positions. This time, they may be needed for seasonal programs in outside maintenance such as road work, grass cutting and waste collection, Laughlin said.

Since the last set of layoffs, 220 employees have been redeployed to other positions, including dozens from community and recreation centres to help at the EXPO homeless shelter, the city said. 

The city is facing an estimated shortfall of $168 million by September due to measures taken to combat the public health crisis.

Two-thirds of the city's operations are completely shut down, Laughlin said, while others are working on a scaled-back system.

Mayor Don Iveson joined Laughlin at Monday's news conference, saying the decision is unfortunate. 

"It's heartbreaking for decision-makers," Iveson said. 

Laughlin also said the city will not fill existing vacancies.

The city is also lobbying the federal government to try to secure more financial relief. 

Ottawa's Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides a lump sum of $2,000 to a laid-off worker and limits a municipality to provide $1,000 to top up an employee's salary while out of work. 

"I have — and the mayor has — encouraged the federal government to open up the program to provide a larger top-up for municipalities."

Foggy future

Laughlin wasn't ready to predict whether the city is facing further layoffs but said he's hopeful the city will start to see some form of recovery by September.

"Not knowing what that would look like, we're cautiously optimistic," Laughlin said.

"But it's certainly really foggy in terms of what that outlook would look like beyond September."

Council met Monday to discuss changes to the 2019-2022 spring operating budgets, including impacts related to COVID-19 pandemic. 

@natashariebe

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