Saskatoon

City of Saskatoon to offer voluntary temporary layoff plan to employees

The City of Saskatoon is rolling out a voluntary temporary layoff program and a redeployment strategy for a number of employees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the meantime 54 workers have been told they will be getting layoff notices

The city wants to redeploy staff to a number of areas including seasonal jobs in the Parks Division. (Courtney Markewich/CBC)

The City of Saskatoon is rolling out a voluntary temporary layoff program and a redeployment strategy for a number of employees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"How we deliver our work has changed for every single employee," said city manager Jeff Jorgenson.  

The city has closed all leisure facilities until at least mid-summer which mainly affects the Community Services department. As well, it will not be hiring casual summer employees.

The voluntary layoff program is first being offered to CUPE 59 members.

"We are starting with CUPE 59 because they are most affected by the leisure centre closures," Jorgenson said. 

"We do have people from throughout the city that could be interested, or in a position where they actually volunteer to take a layoff," Jorgenson said during a video news conference.

Staff from anywhere within CUPE 59 that are interested in participating will be able to request a temporary layoff, and it will be accommodated if possible. 

Jorgenson said this will free up positions that can be filled by CUPE 59 members who currently have no work due to leisure centre and civic building closures. 

In the meantime 54 members of CUPE 59 received telephone calls to advise them they would be receiving layoff notices. 

"We've got excess staff in the services area so that would be primarily where those layoff notices went out. "

"We're figuring out a transition and that would be in the hundreds of staff that we're looking at either a redeployment or a change of job duties."

Some city employees may become "Physical Distancing Ambassadors" that encourage citizens to follow social/physical distancing in parks and on pathways. (Albert Couillard/CBC)

Jorgenson said over the next four weeks it's hoped all those affected will be offered alternate work opportunities such as:

  • Positions vacated by people choosing to take voluntary layoff,
  • Seasonal opportunities in the Parks Division;
  • Non-traditional work such as "Physical Distancing Ambassadors" throughout the City to encourage citizens to follow social/physical distancing in parks and on pathways, and to keep an eye on play structures to make sure safety tape and signing remains in place;
  • Possible administrative support to some local service providers who are working to support Saskatoon's most vulnerable citizens.

"For example, we're seeing people in other cities take an ambassador approach where our civic employees are out in parks encouraging social distancing," Jorgenson said.

"While I can't guarantee that everyone will be re-deployed, we are doing our best to create opportunities for employment."

He said the city will be expanding the voluntary layoff program to other city departments and unions in the coming weeks.

So far about 250 casual staff have been laid off.

"We expect that things will continue to evolve and changes will need to be made on a weekly basis," Jorgenson said.

"We must continue providing our important civic services, but we are balancing that with our desire to support staff through this unprecedented pandemic situation.