Emergency leave, instead of layoffs, for COVID-19-impacted City of London workers

CUPE Local 101, which represents front-line “inside” municipal workers, and the City of London, Ont., have reached an agreement to move forward with emergency leaves for some union members as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

A release from the city Thursday afternoon stated that roughly 200 full-time staff will be going on a temporary unpaid “declared emergency leave” (DEL).

“Until we reach a point where we can return to full services and operations, we are faced with reducing our staffing levels temporarily,” said city manager Lynne Livingstone.

“This is a difficult decision, but this is necessary.”

In a message posted to members on its website, the union said it previously noted that job losses were possible due to “the slowdown caused by COVID-19 and the budget shortfall” but “until now, our workforce has been intact.”

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The union says a “designated emergency leave” instead of a layoff will begin next week for “some employees” adding that affected employees “will be notified by their manager” on Thursday.

“Late evening an agreement was reached and signed between the Employer and the Union. These extensive talks were aimed at identifying a fair process for how a DEL would be applied, and how it would end,” wrote CUPE Local 101 president Adam Brightling.

“This is not unique to CUPE Local 101, it is happening in all City of London unions and in the management group alike. This DEL process, unlike a layoff, will allow people to apply for the CERB benefit but maintain their benefits and seniority, and describes how a return to work will occur.”

The message to members added that while the collective agreement has “layoff and bumping rules according to seniority,” the province previously enacted orders under the state of emergency which suspends portions of collective agreements which required the union and the city to reach a new agreement specific to this situation.

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As well, the DEL means that temporary job losses will happen “by job classification, first with temporary staff before permanent staff, and from lowest seniority before higher seniority” rather than simply by “lowest seniority to highest.”

“Again, we do not like this, it goes against the , and against our belief that seniority across the membership should prevail, but the Premier’s Orders allow this to happen. No doubt there will be many more questions, and we will continue to answer them the best we can,” Brightling continued.

“Once the government lifts the States of Emergency and end the Orders, those on DEL leave will be immediately recalled to work.”

In addition to the roughly 200 full-time staff announced Thursday, the city previously announced that about 1,300 seasonal temporary and casual employees have had their start dates deferred or have been placed on a temporary unpaid leave, and 31 students have had their contracts cancelled.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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