City of Edmonton temporarily lays off additional 900 employees

April 29, 2020
Nearly half of those employees impacted are transit operators with service reductions and financial stress cited as driving factors behind the furloughs.

The city of Edmonton, Alberta, says an additional 900 city employees, nearly half of them transit operators, will be temporarily laid off as the city continues to wrestle with the lower demand and financial fall out of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“COVID-19 is continuing to have an impact on public health, the economy and city services, and again it is taking a toll on our colleagues,” said Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin.

Laughlin’s voice cracked with emotion as he explained the layoffs, noting it was one of the most difficult things he had been tasked with doing in his career. The pandemic has left the city facing a C$168 million (US$120.12 million) shortfall by mid-September.

Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) has adjusted service, urged essential trips only and suspended fares to preserve service while enhancing safety. According to data made public by Transit app, which measures demand for public transit based on millions of app opens, indicates app usage on ETS is down up to 85 percent from expected levels.

Layoffs will be effective May 4 and employees who were given notice can redeploy to other departments that are over stressed. The city has not confirmed the length of the temporary layoffs.

“How the city responds and recovers will determine when and how we bring employees back,” said Laughlin. “We are making every effort to treat our staff with compassion and care, whether they are temporarily away from their job or working in a different way. We continue to adjust municipal operations to support our residents and community through these challenging times.”

Last week, both TransLink and the Toronto Transit Commission announced layoffs and other cost cutting measures in response to financial stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) has requested the federal government provide emergency financial assistance to Canadian transit systems, citing the combination of financial hardship and that riders who continue to take transit during this time provide essential services.

“As life adapts to these extraordinary times, we can fly less. We can get take-out or delivery. We can work from home. There are programs to help people affected by these changes. But transit is one of those things that shouldn’t be shut down because despite massive reductions in ridership, it is an essential service for people who do essential work and needs our support,” said CUTA President and CEO Marco D'Angelo.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.