The City of Delta is laying off 500 of its employees amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor George Harvie told the Optimist in an interview Tuesday that the difficult decision was made during a meeting with Delta council and senior staff on Monday afternoon.
“It was a sad day for me yesterday… first time in my long career that I was involved in voting, along with council, to lay off 500 of our staff at this time,” said Harvie. “I’m hoping that our economic recovery plan will allow us to get back up to complement as soon as possible by opening up our rec centres and look very much forward to the day that these good people return to work with Delta.”
The city has about 1,360 staff members, not including the Delta Police Department.
City manager Sean McGill said 95 per cent of the layoffs are under parks and recreation and infrastructure due to the closure of all city facilities, including community centres, arenas and pools.
“For myself, senior staff, mayor and council, it was a hard decision. I think that goes without saying,” said McGill. “I have been in municipal life for about 30 years and it’s the hardest decision I have been a part of. It’s been done for the appropriate and right reasons, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging.”
McGill said the union has been very professional in dealing with the situation.
“We are being very fair with staff. We are having someone call staff individually and we want to treat them fairly,” he said. “Delta is a big city geographically, but it has always had a tight knit, family feel and this is hard on a lot of people. It is not an easy decision.”
McGill added the city is cautiously optimistic it will be able to bring all staff back.
“Everyone is working towards what the new normal will look like. Our intent would be to bring all staff back, but we just don’t know how long this will take,” said McGill. “If this is a six-week event rather than six months, that picture looks very different, so that is a challenge for myself and mayor and council.
“We know staff have more questions than we have answers to and we can’t make commitments that we can’t live up to. Our goal remains to have everyone back to work as soon as possible, but the world around us will certainly dictate that.”