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Coronavirus: Bulk of laid-off City of Peterborough workforce yet to be recalled

Peterborough Sport and Wellness Centre.
Peterborough Sport and Wellness Centre. Global Peterborough Newsfile

Around 260 City of Peterborough employees remain off the job due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and provincial service restrictions.

At the outset of the emergency orders and closures in April, 326 staff members were laid off.

“Those numbers have dropped slightly as the city has opened some services such as limited services or curbside services at the Peterborough Public Library,” said city communications manager Brendan Wedley. “You’ve seen beaches open with lifeguard services and wading pools with lifeguards.”

Read more: Coronavirus — Peterborough Public Health continues to encourage mask-wearing but not mandate it

Of the positions still affected, a little more than 100 are in the arenas division, 115 are at the Peterborough Sport and Wellness Centre, which remains closed, and the other 40 or so are crossing guards, who would normally be off right now for the summer, but were laid off when students didn’t return to school in March.

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“We’re waiting and seeing what the provincial government is doing in terms of emergency orders and that’s dependent on the COVID-19 pandemic. That timing we’re uncertain about so it’s difficult to set time frames on those (reopenings),” added Wedley.

A full list of affected services can be found on the City of Peterborough’s website.

Instead of city-run summer camps, which are cancelled this year, the new Summer Play Program for children ages four to 11 begins next week.

There will be two locations for the alternative program: the Navy Club at 24 Whitlaw St. and the Peterborough Museum and Archives on Hunter Street.

Seasonal staff members will be running the program this year.

“They’re structured differently in order to reduce the group sizes and implement the safety measures under the protocols put in place by the province to operate summer camps at this time,” Wedley said.

Read more: Coronavirus — City of Kawartha Lakes issues more than 200 layoff notices, delays summer hiring

Meanwhile, City of Kawartha Lakes Mayor Andy Letham told reporters on his weekly teleconference on Wednesday that nearly all of the municipality’s laid-off workforce has been recalled.

“Some, for different reasons, whether it’s lack of daycare, we’re missing a few that would normally be back, but can’t be back,” he said. “We’ve called everyone back who can come back right now.”

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Approximately 80 summer student positions weren’t filled this year.

“That’s where a lot of our shortages are occurring and we have other staff filling in on those service areas and meet those health and safety protocols,” he said.

“We used to turn on splash pads in the morning and off at night, and now we have a staff member there shutting them down every few hours, spending the whole day there, controlling access and cleaning washrooms. A few different people have moved around and were reallocated as necessary.”

Despite projecting a $3.2-million shortfall in 2020 due to the pandemic, the City of Kawartha Lakes is forecasting a balanced budget, due to a reduction in services and cost-tightening measures.

It has also identified a projected $3-million surplus from 2019.

But the municipality is joining with several others as part of a national effort, led by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, to call on the federal government to offer at least $10 billion in emergency relief for communities affected by the pandemic.

The call is for that money to be funded 100 per cent by the federal and municipal governments.

“Hopefully we don’t have to keep this reduced level of service forever. The pandemic will be with us for a while. Getting assistance from the federal and provincial governments will get us back to full service as quickly as we can. Even for next year and moving forward,” Letham said.

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“If we don’t get assistance, we won’t be able, in the long-term, to get our service levels back to where they have been in the past.  If we don’t, we’re going to have to make some decisions at the local level to be able to meet those financial commitments.”