Parks and Recreation workload grows, but seasonal staff still furloughed
LONDON, ONT. -- London City Hall continues to delay hiring hundreds of seasonal and casual workers, even as the number of activities permitted in parks increased Friday.
Attendance surged at local parks as Londoners were once again permitted to use tennis courts, dog parks, skateboard facilities and several other amenities. But people must continue to practice physical distancing.
“It’s so nice that the weather is warm and we can get together in a modified form,” said Bette Connors who sat in Thames Park.
Two of London’s three municipal golf courses, Thames Valley and Fanshawe, opened a week ago under new pandemic rules.
“We had to pull people from other areas to get caught up.” explains Alastair Bruff, president of CUPE Local 107.
City Hall’s Managing Director of Parks & Recreation Scott Stafford says staff with previous experience working at the golf courses played a key role.
“It’s been an all-hands-on-deck approach to ensure all of our staff and customers are safe.”
But opening more park amenities hasn’t meant a return to normal from a staffing perspective.
Hundreds of seasonal and casual employees who had their start dates delayed by the pandemic - remain off work.
Bruff says only a handful are back, specifically to help keep the golf courses operating, “They brought 10 more labourers over there to run machines. And we hired on three at Fanshawe, two at Thames. And we are hoping to bring on another five or six in the next week or two, casuals.”
As for the remaining casual and seasonal staff, Stafford suggests it's wait and see.
The majority of those positions are related to organized sports as well as recreation centre activities, which are still not permitted by the province.
“We work on assessing it every week, and seeing where we are with service levels and awaiting those provincial announcements as to what we can open.”
Bruff believes because fleet vehicles and equipment are difficult to share under COVID-19 protocols, seasonal hires will be well down from past years.
“Usually [we hire] around 250 temporary employees, I don’t think we will get there because of the social distancing.”
A list of activities now permitted in parks can be found on the city website.