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City dumps pool, financial staff

The City of Prince George slashed 11 positions on Friday - including two full-time financial services staff and nine aquatics department staff.
People swim at the Four Seasons Pool on Saturday. The City of Prince George laid off 11 staff, including nine aquatics employees, on Friday.

The City of Prince George slashed 11 positions on Friday - including two full-time financial services staff and nine aquatics department staff.

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local 1048 president Janet Bigelow said the laid off aquatics department employees - two cleaners and six customer service representatives/waterslide attendants - were some of the lowest-paid employees at the city. An aquatics coordinator was also laid off.

"They are tripping over dollars to save dimes," Bigelow said. "These people did not get benefits. They are not saving any money, that I can see."

Bigelow said the lifeguards at the Prince George Aquatic Centre and Four Seasons Pool will now be expected to supervise the waterslides and clean pool facilities like the change rooms, while still performing their lifeguarding duties.

Lifeguards get paid more than cleaners and customer service employees, because of the higher level of qualifications required, Bigelow said.

"They're paid to save lives... not to clean," she said. "I'm concerned about what is going to happen at these pools. When I go to a pool, I want it to be clean. Going into the Canada Winter Games, who is going to be cleaning these pools' [facilities]?"

The cuts to the city's finance department mean the city's finance manager "... is now a manager of no people," Bigelow said.

"Who is going to do the work? There is other jobs that were vacated and not filled, so he [the manager] is a manager of no one," she added.

Bigelow declined to comment on whether the union will challenge the layoffs.

If the city needs to cut its budget, she added, laying off mostly part-time, low-paid employees without benefits is not the way to do it.

"I think there is plenty of places where they could save money," Bigelow said. "They spent $100,000 on that snow [clearing] report. If they just went and talked to the members of [CUPE local] 399, they would have told them what they've been saying for years: the equipment is old and worn out."


Coun. Brian Skakun said council was not informed about the layoffs. Many members of council were in Whistler when the layoffs were announced, attending the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual conference.

"I didn't know about this until I read it in the media. I've been left in the dark," Skakun said. "That, in itself, is a big communication problem. All they had to do was let us know."

Skakun said layoffs were purely an administrative decision, but he has concerns about the cleanliness and safety of the pools with the reduced number of staff.

"I hope administration, before they cut back on janitors and safety staff, have done some kind of review -but I don't know if that has happened either," he said. "[And] you never want to see people lose their jobs."

Coun. Albert Koehler said he was attending the UBCM convention and hadn't heard about the layoffs until The Citizen called him.

Mayor Shari Green and councillors Lyn Hall, Murry Krause, Cameron Stolz, Dave Wilbur, Garth Frizzell and Frank Everitt could not be reached for comment as of press time.

City communications manager Todd Corrigall said the city does not comment on human resources issues.

However, on Jan. 17, 2012 city council held a press conference to announce the elimination of 28 positions, including nine layoffs, as part of $1.68 million in staffing cuts.

Corrigall could not comment on when the city's policy on speaking about layoffs had changed.

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