On March 14, the City of Edmonton closed recreation centres, arenas and leisure centres as part of its efforts to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. That same date, in alignment with the City, the Edmonton Public Library (EPL) closed its 21 branches. As a result of those closures, about 1,600 City and 489 EPL employees who bring those facilities to life will be temporarily laid off.
“COVID-19 is taking a toll on public health, on city services, and now on the jobs of many of our colleagues,” said Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin. “As responsible stewards, we must always ensure value for taxpayer dollars. We cannot continue to pay employees’ salaries while the facilities remain closed and these community programs are not available.”
“This closure has resulted in a drastic reduction in our services. As a result, we have had to make the very difficult decision to initiate temporary layoffs,” said Pilar Martinez, CEO of EPL. “I would like to emphasize I am incredibly proud of every single staff member’s contributions to the Edmonton Public Library, and the impact they make each and every day. This decision in no way reflects their hard work and dedication to EPL.”
Some City staff have been redeployed to other areas, which is reducing the overall impact. Affected staff include full-time and part-time cashiers, fitness instructors, arena attendants, city hall tour guides, art and education instructors, booking clerks, labourers and lifeguards, plus others.
“When it is safe to open facilities again, we will welcome our colleagues back,” Laughlin confirmed. “In the meantime, we will work with staff and our union partners to help affected employees access interim financial assistance.”
Both City and EPL staff who are temporarily laid off will have access to most of their benefits, including mental health supports. They will continue to be included in communications from their employer.
“We have made every effort to approach this unprecedented situation by ensuring we support our staff as much as possible while also balancing organizational needs, our economic reality and fiduciary responsibility as a publicly funded organization,” said Martinez. “While timelines are difficult to predict, we are eager to return to normal EPL operations”.
“It’s important that we continue to treat our temporarily laid-off employees with compassion and care. Every person is important to us and we’ll work with them to support them during this very difficult time,” concluded Laughlin.