OTTAWA – The City of Ottawa has had to temporarily layoff staff and restrict more services as city staff up the effort to battle the ferocious COVID-19 pandemic.
“In order to help flatten the curve and protect the public from the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Ottawa has closed public facilities and has suspended non-essential services, activities and programs,” city staff released in a statement. “Today (April 6), in consultation with Ottawa Public Health (OPH), the City of Ottawa is extending the closure of city facilities, services and large public gatherings until June 30, as part of a dedicated effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The City of Ottawa remains in a state of emergency and the city’s Emergency Operations Centre will continue to respond and coordinate all activities associated with keeping Ottawa safe.
“We are constantly reviewing the situation, in consultation with the medical officer of health, to determine what is best for the health of our residents,” Mayor Jim Watson said. “This is not easy for anyone. But to our affected employees, I want to say thank you for your hard work and dedicated service to our community and our residents. I can assure you that this is only a temporary measure, and we look forward to bringing you back to offer the programming that benefits tens of thousands of families across the city.”
Due to the closure of city facilities and cancellation of programming, many part-time employees are without work. As a result, the City of Ottawa has worked in partnership with CUPE 503 to place approximately 4,000 part-time employees from the Recreation, Cultural and Facility Services Department (RCFS) and approximately 280 part-time employees from the Ottawa Public Library (OPL) on an unpaid, job-protected legislated leave of absence, or declared emergency leave, under the Employment Standards Act. During the period that city facilities are closed, there is insufficient work for these employees and this negotiated agreement ensures that staff are not laid-off.
These are not permanent reductions and those impacted will retain their status as City of Ottawa employees. But by taking this step, the City is allowing part-time employees to apply for federal supports. This decision was necessary to ensure the financial well-being of our staff members.
The City of Ottawa will also defer the 2020 summer student employment program until May and will review the viability of the program on a regular basis as the situation evolves.
“During this unprecedented time, the City of Ottawa will continue to provide municipal services that residents rely on,” city staff said. “City staff are working on a plan to ensure the city’s finances remain stable, municipal services continue and that the full complement of city resources is deployed to support these efforts. Staff will provide an update on the coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the city council meeting on April 8. By following the direction of OPH and limiting COVID-19 exposure to essential and critical workers, we can all do our part to ensure that emergency services, garbage collection, water services, public transportation, roads services and support for our most vulnerable can continue.”