THUNDER BAY - The city of Thunder Bay announced it will be ceasing all non-essential services and employees have been instructed to stay home.
In a release issued Wednesday afternoon, the city said in accordance with Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, it has taken the steps to cease all non-essential services for the protection of all city staff.
“Decisions we have made and continue to make as a Corporation have always been informed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act and professional medical opinion,” said Mayor Bill Mauro in the media release. “The Thunder Bay District Health Unit advises employers to be proactive to protect their employees and clients to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spreading. This has led the City to make the difficult decision to further reduce our services.”
City manager Norm Gale was not able to provide a specific number of how many employees are being asked to stay home but said a large number of people continue to work for the corporation in essential services.
Essential city services include emergency services, water, wastewater, Pioneer Ridge, Transit, planning and building by appointment only to facilitate construction, and critical business functions such as human resources, communications, and legal.
Garbage collection will also continue and the two non-tagged item limit remains the same. A third item tag can be purchased by phone at 625-2266. City landfills and recycling depots will also continue to operate.
City Hall was closed to the public last week though administration staff will continue to receive calls and direct people to appropriate departments. Some employees in non-essential services may be asked to return to assist with essential services.
The city did not put a timeline on how long non-essential services will cease, only stating it will be in place until further notice.
"We are taking measured, reasonable, and thoughtful approaches to this and we are very sensitive to the implications of this decision," Gale said.
Gale added that he understands there are a lot of unanswered questions at the moment. On Wednesday morning, CUPE 87 president, Dana Vacek, expressed concerns that workers will not be compensated while off the job and said layoff provisions were part of a collective bargaining agreement. But Gale said this is not a layoff.
"Everyone who has a job today in the corporation, their jobs will be protected, they will have a job to return to," Gale said. "The language is important. What we have done is told people who are performing non-essential work to stay home. The reason we have done that is to protect their safety and community safety."
Employees will be paid this Friday as normal, according to Gale, but he did not provide any details about additional compensation at this time.
"We are sensitive to the implications for people who are told to stay home," he said. "We know this contributes to uncertainty and angst in very difficult and troubling times. I acknowledge we don’t have all the answers at this point in time today."For more information on city services and how they are impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, visit the City of Thunder Bay website.