'This will affect hundreds': City eyes more layoffs, staff changes as Saskatoon's COVID-19 restrictions expected to last several weeks at least
SASKATOON -- The City of Saskatoon says it has laid off 250 casual staff and has recently served 49 staff with lay-off notices as the city copes with the changing landscape caused by COVID-19.
"We have a number of staff in the process of where we're figuring out transitions, redeployment or change of job duties, this will affect hundreds," said Jeff Jorgenson, city manager.
The city has developed a strategy to reduce or eliminate the need for involuntary layoffs, Jorgenson said in a news release Thursday.
That strategy includes a voluntary layoff and temporary layoff program, and a change to non-traditional work such as physical distancing ambassadors, designated to make sure people follow physical distancing in city parks and pathways.
Jorgenson said he can’t guarantee everyone will be re-deployed, but adds the city is doing its best to create employment opportunities.
He added two city staff have tested positive for COVID-19, one has recovered and the other case is in good health, he said.
On Thursday the city held a media conference online updating the city's response to COVID-19 and the impact on city services and public closures
During the news conference, the city's emergency planning director Pamela Goulden-McLeod said the restrictions that have brought many aspects of city life to a standstill are expected to last for weeks.
“In all of the modelling we’re looking at a minimum of several more weeks following the current measures, these must be followed aggressively,” she said.
With the spring warm-up nearing, Jorgenson said he doesn't see the city taking any further measures unless something dramatic changes.
"We feel caught up, we don't feel we need to take imminent actions. We've taken a number of steps and we're not anticipating significant changes," he said.
With public restrictions likely to stay in effect into the summer months, Jorgenson said the city will not be opening and public pools or spray pads until it has received direction from the province that it's safe to do so.
"Anything that encourages public gathering, we will not be taking any actions, or supporting any public gathering because that will be irresponsible," he said.
"On a moment's notice, if the province lifts restrictions, as soon as we're medically able to lift those restrictions, we will be ready (to open up)."
However, if the public restrictions are lifted in August, Jorgenson said the city likely won’t open public pools for just one month, noting public pools usually close in September.
Mayor Charlie Clark urged people not to gather on Easter weekend, but to stay at home and connect with family through other means such as a phone call or online video chat.
“Many sacrifices have been made and these sacrifices are savings lives,” Clark said. “This time for our community hasn’t been easy, thousand of people have lost their jobs, businesses have closed, students are missing graduations, weddings and trips have been cancelled.”