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Uncertainty still surrounds city workers' pay status

City says layers of collective bargaining agreements are being dissected to determine the next course of action after hundreds of municipal employees were sent home because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Norm Gale
City manager Norm Gale on Thursday, March 26, 2020 says he's hopeful he can soon provide answers to non-essential municipal workers who have been sent home. (Leith Dunick,

THUNDER BAY – City manager Norm Gale could not provide a definitive answer when asked if hundreds of non-essential municipal employees will still get a paycheque after being sent home on Wednesday afternoon.

Gale, who met with local media on Thursday, said it’s a complicated situation as they navigate through the language of various collective bargaining agreements.

“We’re going to provide the information as soon as we can. We’re going to do it in a holistic way. The holistic way is important, because first of all we want to get it right,” Gale said. “We have more than 10 collective bargaining agreements within the corporation.

“We have non-union and non-affiliated workers. We have management. There are different implications for every work area. Also, Ontario has hundreds of pieces of legislation. A lot of this legislation speaks to certain types of workers ... It’s complicated.”

Gale said he understands workers are anxious, not knowing what the immediate future holds.

But the decision had to be made, he added.

“Our move was made to protect the safety of the non-essential workers and the community in this period of a global crisis,” Gale said.

“I appreciate that that contributes to an enhanced anxiety in troubled times, and that is why we are working very hard and very fast to provide clear information. Our external environment is changing rapidly and it’s volatile. We want to have certainty for the people who do great things for the City of Thunder Bay.”

Asked if there was a lack of clarity in the legislation, which is evolving along with the crisis, Gale said it would be imprudent to answer the question at this time.

“My point is simply that this is complicated and there are many moving parts and many pieces.”

On Wednesday Gale did say the jobs would be protected and everyone who was sent home would have employment to come back to when the all-clear was given.

Affected staff will still be paid as normal on Friday.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith has been the editor of Thunder Bay Source for 17 years and has served a similar role with since 2009. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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