Hundreds of City of Winnipeg employees face temporarily layoffs under coronavirus closures

The City of Winnipeg says temporarily layoffs may be coming for hundreds of its employees as provincial COVID-19 health orders force the closure of city-owned and operated recreation facilities, gyms, indoor pools, arenas and libraries.

The city said Wednesday roughly 600 temporary staff have been left without work under the closures, which went into effect at the end of October.

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“Unfortunately the provincial public health orders have directly impacted city services and our staff,” said Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman.

Jason Shaw, who heads up Winnipeg’s emergency operations centre, said the city has been working with the Canadian Union of Public Employees to remove restrictions on collective agreements that exist for affected employees, meaning some may have the opportunity to be redeployed.

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Those who are not redeployed will be temporarily laid-off starting Sunday, Shaw said.

Shaw said the city is working with the Manitoba government to see if any of the affected city employees may be able to find work with the province, possibly helping with administrative roles needed around the ongoing fight against COVID-19.

Read more: Record-setting new coronavirus cases reported in Manitoba Monday

While he couldn’t say exactly how many employees may be laid-off, he did say it’s likely not all of the 600 city workers will be redeployed.

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“I think it’s fair to say that not all 600 are going to be able to move over to the province, or in other roles,” he said.

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“But we do want to be able to make that offer and try to help out as much as possible — we are part of this and we want to help out.”

When the city was forced to layoff employees during COVID-19 restrictions in the spring, some workers were redeployed to work at Winnipeg Harvest and other non-government organizations. Shaw said he’s hopeful similar redeployments can be arranged this time around as well.

Read more: Manitoba automates some coronavirus contact tracing, 12 deaths reported Tuesday

Shaw said calls to affected employees were being made Wednesday to find out who night be interested in being redeployed, and to work out next steps.

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Temporarily laid-off city employees will have access to mental health supports, and will continue to be included in communications from their employer, Shaw said.

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Shaw said the city has registered a Supplementary Unemployment Benefit Plan with the Government of Canada, which will provide a top-up to 75 per cent of their regular gross weekly salary, for a one-month period, for laid-off employees receiving Employment Insurance benefits during the layoffs.

The city says the employees will be welcomed back to work once its safe to reopen city facilities.

Read more: ‘My mom still had a lot of life to live’: Winnipeg nurse shares story of mother’s coronavirus death

Health officials moved the Metro Winnipeg area into the red, or critical, level on the province’s pandemic response system at the beginning of November in an attempt to curb rising rates of COVID-19 in the region.

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The measures have since been put into place province-wide and are scheduled to remain in effect until at least Dec. 11.

On Wednesday Manitoba reported 349 new COVID-19 cases in the province, including 213 in Winnipeg. Health officials also announced nine additional deaths, bringing Manitoba’s total number of deaths from the virus reported since March to 256.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

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