Thunder Bay

'Regrettable but necessary': City of Thunder Bay lays off, reduces work for 800 people after COVID-19 closures

The City of Thunder Bay announced Friday it is temporarily reducing its workforce by about one-third due to facility closures and program suspensions related to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

CIty officials say 170 people to be laid off, another 620 will have temporary shortage of work: union notified

Officials with the City of Thunder Bay say nearly 800 people will be affected by temporary layoffs and work shortages because of the closure of facilities and suspension of programs in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

The City of Thunder Bay announced Friday it is temporarily reducing its workforce by about one-third due to facility closures and program suspensions related to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Up to 170 employees whose jobs do not allow them to work from home will be temporarily laid off. As well, there will be a temporary shortage of work for another 620 part-time, casual and temporary employees who have not had work since the closures and suspensions were put in place, city officials outlined in a written release.  In full operation, the city employees about 2,300 people in total with about 1,300 of those being full-time staff.

Areas where staff are impacted include recreation, child care, crossing guard services and some clerical and outside services, officials said. 

"This is regrettable but necessary," said Norm Gale, the city manager. "Notifications of the temporary shortages of work and layoffs allows employees to apply for supports available through the Government of Canada and other supports that may be available to them. The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting all sectors in all communities. We will work with union leadership and our employees in accordance with applicable collective agreements and legislation."

The closures and suspensions came about as part of the Provincial Declaration of Emergency in March, which ordered all non-essential businesses to close. According to city officials that order has now been extended to April 13.

'Work deemed non-essential' but 'employees valued'

City officials stated they have communicated with union leaders and plan to follow up with employees in the next week to learn more about individual circumstances and impacts, the release stated. As well, council was advised of the labour reductions in a closed session Committee of the Whole meeting on April 2.

"While their work has been deemed non-essential at this time, these employees are valued and provide dedicated service to the people of Thunder Bay," Gale stated.

"People rely on and need these services. I look forward to the day we are able to bring our employees back to reopen our facilities, programs, and services. I am also grateful to the employees who continue to work to provide essential services for our residents or who are continuing the business of the Corporation by working from home. I know there is uncertainty and angst. I appreciate the service of our great City employees, no matter what area one works in."

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