Local government heads on the Sunshine Coast say they’re hoping to keep staff working as long as possible, but if shutdowns and other restrictions as a result of COVID-19 drag on they may have to consider layoffs.
“At this point we’ve committed to paying staff until April 18,” Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) chair Lori Pratt said during the April 2 edition of Eastlink Community TV’s Talk to Your Local Government.
Pratt said the SCRD, which employs the people who run facilities like the pools and rec centres which have been closed, said keeping staff fully employed as long as possible is creating a chance for training and building depth in the organization.
But she pointed out that as the situation continues, layoffs may have to be considered. “It is something that we will have to look at. We’re not quite there yet, but it is going to be coming up.”
Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers said her municipality doesn’t operate large facilities like the SCRD and has had to keep its regular operations going, so she anticipates a full staff will continue to be needed.
She said Sechelt is also using the opportunity for some training, and has repurposed some staff to work on projects outside their normal activities including a digitization project.
“When we come out the other end we’ll actually be further ahead on the digitizing piece,” Siegers said. “So they’ve been repurposed to do work that needed to be done, but we actually expected to take much longer. So we don’t anticipate [layoffs].”
Siegers said the only thing that could change that is an order from the federal or provincial governments.
Mayor Bill Beamish said the Town has also kept all its municipal staff working and, like Sechelt and the SCRD, is using some of the time for training. He also said the Town needs to continue providing the services residents expect.
“There’s things that have to be done,” Beamish said. “As much as there are fewer people on the streets, the garbage still accumulates on the streets and in the garbage pails. Clearing that up, doing routine maintenance. We’re actually getting to the time where the grass starts growing.”
Beamish said ICBC office staff employed by the Town are coming in “one at a time” to handle phone inquiries.
Warren Paull, chief of the shíshálh Nation, said they’re reviewing the situation.
“[Human Resources] has been working on that the better part of the last couple of weeks, trying to put together a game plan,” he said. “We think that we may be able to keep the lion’s share of our people working – that is the hope. I don’t want to allow something like this, which nobody saw coming, to affect people. I want to retain as many good people as I can.”
Paull added though that, “I’m not saying that layoffs are not in the cards, but hopefully somewhere further down the road.”