North Cowichan is reducing its workforce during the COVID-19 crisis. (File photo)

Local governments reviewing staff levels, doing layoffs, as COVID-19 crisis grips Cowichan

139 municipal workers in North Cowichan already impacted by virus

Some local governments in the Cowichan Valley are reviewing their staff levels during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

To date, the employment of 139 workers in the Municipality of North Cowichan has been impacted by the virus.

Ted Swabey, North Cowichan’s CAO, said at this time, the municipality has laid off 68 casual employees and 29 contract staff, issued working notice of layoff to 28 permanent staff and has rescinded seasonal employment offers to 14 temporary seasonal employees who were scheduled to start in the coming weeks.

RELATED STORY: NORTH COWICHAN SHUTS MUNICIPAL HALL AND CANCELS MOST SERVICES DURING CRISIS

“Our COVID-19 rapid response team is analyzing our immediate, short and potentially longer-term workforce needs in the face of the pandemic,” Swabey said.

“We are also analyzing which portions of our workforce may continue to contribute productively while working remotely, and which portions could be safely redeployed to other duties in response to the crisis.”

Swabey said that, admittedly, this analysis work has proven difficult in a very fluid situation.

“For example, the almost daily escalating recommendations from the Provincial Health Officer [Dr. Bonnie Henry] has required us to repeatedly review and adjust our analysis since the onset of this crisis,” he said.

“We are continually monitoring our workforce and community needs as this situation evolves, we are keeping open communication with [the municipality’s union] CUPE Local 358, and we are liaising with other local governments in the Cowichan Valley Regional District.”

Peter de Verteuil, the City of Duncan’s CAO, said there have been no layoffs to date among city staff due to COVID-19, but some staff are now working from home, and some in the public works department are on a week-on, week-off rotation to limit exposure to the virus.

RELATED STORY: CITY OF DUNCAN MOVES TO ESSENTIAL SERVICES ONLY

“But those at home, working or not, are still being paid,” he said.

De Verteuil said that with the measures in place, the city’s staff are able to practise social distancing and support the essential services that are still being undertaken by the city during the crisis.

A statement from the Cowichan Valley Regional District said, at this time, the district has also not laid off any of its full or part-time staff due to the pandemic.

RELATED STORY: CVRD FURTHER CURTAILS DELIVERY OF ESSENTIAL SERVICES

“A majority of our staff are currently working in essential services or working from home,” the CVRD’s statement said.

“We are in the process of reviewing our critical staffing levels and will be making appropriate staff decisions in the coming weeks.”

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