Town lays off 144 members of staff

April 9, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

The Town of Orangeville has taken the drastic step to lay off 143 municipal employees as the impacts of COVID-19 continue to be felt locally. 

In a release distributed to media on Friday (April 3), Orangeville CAO Ed Brennan confirmed all of those affected by the layoffs are casual and part-time employees in the areas of recreation, events, libraries, crossing guard services and recreational facility support. Falling in line with the provincial government’s decision to close schools and recommend Ontarians practice social distancing, the Town made the decision to close its libraries, recreational centres and other facilities on March 14.

“In an unprecedented time, we have been called upon to make a very difficult and unprecedented decision,” Mr. Brennan said. “The closure of all library and recreational facilities for an extended period has resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of programs and services, and a shortage of work for those who deliver these programs.”

He added, “We will continue to monitor and respond to these challenging times we are all facing.”

While it’s unclear how much money the Town stands to save by laying off more than 140 staff members, Treasurer Nandini Syed indicated it would be marginal.

“While partially subsided by other sources of funding, including taxation, most of these service areas rely heavily on user fees. More than 50 percent of the recreation and events budget is funded through user fees generated through various programs and services,” Ms. Syed said. 

She added, “On an aggregate level, loss of user fee related revenues for community services over a four-month period has been projected to be close to $750,000. As part of its ongoing financial recovery and sustainability plan, the Town’s recent decision surrounding temporary layoffs of part-time and seasonal staff will recuperate approximately 70 percent of the projected revenue loss. The remaining 30 percent if mitigated through a reduction in various operational overhead costs.”

While the federal government unveiled its Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program last week, none of the 143 staff laid off would have qualified for the initiative. At present, the program is not available to employees from public bodies and instead is designed to help businesses keep and return workers to their payroll during these challenging times. CEWS provides a 75 percent wage subsidy to eligible employers for up to 12 weeks, retroactive as of March 15. The subsidy will only be available to eligible employers that have seen a drop of at least 30 percent of their revenue in recent weeks. 

While staff impacted by the layoffs do not qualify for CEWS, they will be able to apply for a variety of other provincial and federal supports put in place during the crisis.

Mayor Sandy Brown is hopeful the layoffs will just be temporary, noting that individuals would be called back to work when the COVID-19 crisis subsides.

“As the community recovers from this pandemic, the Town looks forward to reopening facilities and restoring impacted services, and to the opportunity to call back laid-off workers as soon as possible,” Mayor Brown said. 

Elsewhere, Town staff continue to encourage residents to maintain social distancing and not congregate in groups in order to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. 

Last Monday (March 30), Orangeville Police issued its first ticket to an individual for violating provincial emergency orders after it emerged the individual had been going door-to-door in a local neighbourhood asking to clean homeowner’s eavestroughs. The 37-year-old man was eventually located carrying out work on a residence on Centre Street. 

Responding officers came to the decision that eavestrough cleaning did not meet the essential-business criteria outlined by the provincial government on March 23, and issued the man with an $880 ticket. 

Since Premier Doug Ford enacted a State of Emergency in Ontario on March 17, Ontarians have been told to stay inside whenever possible, and limit in-person interactions with other people. Now, the Town is warning people they too may face fines if they ignore new legislation limiting group gatherings to no more than five people for the foreseeable future.

“Whether you’re in mandatory quarantine in your home, or dealing with social distancing in public, the community depends on you to abide by the current rules. Group gatherings of more than five people are no longer tolerated, as keeping people apart is vital to slowing the spread of COVID-19,” a Town of Orangeville press release, dated April 2, reads.

It continues, “These prohibitions apply to an event or gathering even if it is held in a private dwelling. This means no house parties, yard parties, garage or driveway parties of more than five, no matter how well that you feel you are socially distanced.”

Individuals who fail to comply with an order made during a declared emergency can face a fine up to $880, while anyone seen to obstruct any person exercising a power in accordance with an order made during a declaring emergency may face a fine up to $1,130. Additionally, anyone found to be obstructing a person performing a duty in accordance with an order made during a declared emergency may also face a fine of up to $1,130. 

“The Orangeville Police Service and Orangeville Bylaw Enforcement will be monitoring the community,” the Town release states.

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