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COVID-19: City workplace redeployment & voluntary layoff plan

For immediate release: April 9, 2020 - 4:38pm

The City is taking further steps to adjust its workforce to respond to the impacts COVID-19 has had on its employees and certain services.

“How we deliver our work has changed for every single employee,” says City Manager Jeff Jorgenson.  “The primary focus of the City has been the safety of staff and our community.  It is now time to focus also on the difficult issue of adjusting staffing levels to meet work demands.”

The Community Services department is affected the most, as all Leisure Centres are shut down likely until at least mid-summer. Further, to comply with the need to keep as many people home as possible, the City will not be staffing-up as usual this summer.

Services in many areas will be adjusted so that seasonal staffing levels can be lowered and meet physical distancing requirements for those who are still at work.

“In order to achieve this, we have developed a strategy that is intended to reduce or possibly eliminate the need for involuntary layoffs of permanent employees most affected by the Leisure Centre and civic building closures,” Jorgenson says.

Here is an explanation of the City’s approach:

A voluntary layoff program will be rolled out this week starting with CUPE 59 members.

“We have heard that employees throughout the City are interested in a temporary layoff, because they have family or personal needs, and at this time would like to be out of the workforce.  We are starting with CUPE 59 because they are most affected by the Leisure Centre closures,” he says. 

Staff from anywhere within CUPE 59 and interested in participating will be able to request a temporary layoff, and it will be accommodated if possible. As important services must continue, not all requests will be granted. Division Directors will have discretion, however it’s hoped this will free up positions – some of which can be filled by CUPE 59 members who currently have no work due to Leisure Centre and civic building closures. These are people who work in the Leisure Centres or were in-person customer service representatives. 

Yesterday 54 members of CUPE 59 received telephone calls to advise them they would be receiving layoff notices. Again, over the next four weeks, it’s hoped virtually 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 furiously to support Saskatoon’s most vulnerable citizens.

“While I can’t guarantee that everyone will be re-deployed, we are doing our best to create opportunities for employment.  We need to be fiscally responsible as well as a compassionate and responsible employer.”

In the coming weeks Jorgenson adds, the City will be expanding the voluntary layoff program to other areas of the City and will work with the various unions and staff associations. 

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