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Manitoba Museum lays off staff amid financial strain of COVID-19 pandemic

The Manitoba Museum is laying off staff amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The Manitoba Museum is laying off staff amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. Wikipedia

The Manitoba Museum is laying off staff due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In a release Friday, the museum said it delivered layoff notices to staff earlier in the day, although all staff will continue to be paid until June 26.

The museum has been closed to the public since March 14.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Manitoba to implement phased reopening starting May 4

“We have made this decision with great reluctance and we will continue to assess the many variables affecting our finances,” said executive director and CEO, Claudette Leclerc, in a release.

Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba announces gradual reopening of non-essential businesses, non-urgent medical procedures, outdoor spaces
Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba announces gradual reopening of non-essential businesses, non-urgent medical procedures, outdoor spaces

“The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting closure has placed the Museum’s financial capacity at risk of not being able to meet its obligations to our payroll and overall operations this year and beyond.”

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It was not immediately clear exactly how many employees will be affected by the layoffs, but the union that represents museum staff says more than 40 of its members received the notices.

READ MORE: Winnipeg to resume some services amid COVID-19 as Manitoba moves to reopen

In an email to Global News, Leclerc said six full staff members will remain laid off as of June 26, but remaining full-time staff will be offered a minimum of 21 hours a week starting June 27.

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She said the museum already laid off 23 part-time staff members April 3.

Museum to remain closed — for now

While the Manitoba government announced this week museums will be allowed to reopen under specific guidelines Monday, the Manitoba Museum said it won’t immediately open its doors.

“We are taking the time to assess and initiate safety protocols and we look forward to the day we can safely reopen to the public,” reads a release from the museum.

READ MORE: Hair salons among Manitoba businesses given the green light to reopen Monday

Leclerc said the layoffs won’t prohibit the museum from reopening when it’s ready.

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“We will ensure we have the staff necessary to reopen once it is safe to do so,” she said.

Leclerc said the museum is waiting to find out how much operational support it will get from the Manitoba government this year — normally 54 per cent of its budget, she says — and for confirmation of federal funding through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Program.

To add to the financial crunch caused by lost revenue since closing in March, Leclerc said the museum’s fundraising efforts have also dipped since the onset of COVID-19.

READ MORE: Manitoba could have 6,250 COVID-19 cases over the next year, modelling shows

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The museum says management will continue consultations with the Manitoba Government Employees’ Union, which represents museum staff, and the museum’s board executive committee to work on a new sustainable staffing structure for the museum past June 26.

In a statement to media, MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said she was disappointed by the layoffs.

“The timing is particularly troubling because museums can re-open on Monday under the Manitoba government’s new re-opening plan,” she said.

“The Province needs to sustain Manitoba’s cultural gems so that we still have them when this pandemic is over. Manitobans’ access to the Museum’s valuable collection of our heritage, culture, and history must not be put at risk.”

Coronavirus: Manitoba to implement phased reopening starting May 4
Coronavirus: Manitoba to implement phased reopening starting May 4

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.