City of Edmonton, public library laying off nearly 2,100 employees

Affected staff include library workers, cashiers, fitness instructors, arena attendants, city hall tour guides, art and education instructors, booking clerks, labourers, lifeguards and others.

'When it is safe to do so ... we will welcome back our colleagues'

Interim city manager Adam Laughlin and Pilar Martinez, CEO of the Edmonton Public Library, announced a total of nearly 2,100 temporary layoffs Monday related to the response to COVID-19. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The City of Edmonton is temporarily laying off 1,600 employees and Edmonton Public Library is laying off nearly 500 others.

The COVID-19 related layoffs were announced Monday by Edmonton interim city manager Adam Laughlin and Pilar Martinez, CEO of the Edmonton Public Library.

The layoffs take effect April 14. 

The city employees work in recreation centres, arenas, leisure centres and other public spaces.

Affected staff include library workers, full-time and part-time cashiers, fitness instructors, arena attendants, city hall tour guides, art and education instructors, booking clerks, labourers, lifeguards and others.

"When it is safe to do so we will resume our recreation programs and we will welcome back our colleagues," Laughlin said.

"We do not know when that will be. This has been a difficult decision."

Laughlin said some staff have been redeployed instead of being laid off temporarily.

Working with city unions, the city has determined certain service areas may need more workers, such as the EXPO Centre, where an emergency homeless shelter has been established. 

"There's no doubt this was a difficult decision for everyone and it was not undertaken lightly," said Mayor Don Iveson at a news conference late Monday afternoon. 

Most employees are expected to receive 55 per cent of their salary through regular employment insurance.

The city will top that up to 75 per cent of their pay during the layoff period, Laughlin said. 

The city will supplement pay for eight weeks for provisional or temporary employees and 16 weeks for permanent staff. 

Employees will maintain benefits and access to mental health support. 

Martinez said the library is laying off 489 employees, about 75 per cent of its staff.

All city recreation centres and all 21 library branches have been closed since March 14.

City and library management held talks with union representatives over the weekend to work out an agreement about temporary layoffs and redeploying staff, said Lanny Chudyk, president of Civil Service Union 52, which represents most of the library staff and roughly 600 city workers temporarily out of a job. 

The size of the layoff was not decided at the meetings, but Chudyk says the number announced Monday wasn't surprising. 

"The employers have been really good about trying to minimize the impact on their employees -- people they will hopefully have back at work in the not-too-distant future," Chudyk said.

The city has nearly 14,000 employees, said Laughlin, the interim city manager.

The financial and corporate services branch will present a supplementary budget adjustment to council April 15, he said. 

"At that time we'll also be evaluating if we do need to take any further measures from a temporary layoff perspective," Laughlin said. "This is extremely tough but we do have some challenges fiscally that we do need to respond to."


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