Municipal staff

Many municipal workers could work from home during the summer


City manager Steve Kanellakos said the council would receive information on its membership at the June 10 meeting.

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Many Ottawa city officials who worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic should make themselves comfortable in their makeshift offices.

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In a recent press conference, City Manager Steve Kanellakos said council will receive workforce information at the June 10 meeting, but said office buildings in the city will be quiet For many months.

Kanellakos said some employees will be returning to their workplaces as the city opens more services, but said the current thinking is that “most of our office buildings will not be occupied for the summer.”

City manager Steve Kanellakos in a January file photo.
City manager Steve Kanellakos in a January file photo. Photo by Jean Levac /Post-media news

“It could be longer,” Kanellakos said on Wednesday. “We are still finalizing this assessment within the next four or five days and will keep the mayor and the council briefing informed.”

According to the city’s director of human resources, Elizabeth Marland, the COVID-19 work-from-home program “enables about 90% of administrative and office workers to work productively from home.”

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Kanellakos said one of the city’s top priorities in the recovery plan is to ensure the safety and well-being of municipal workers if they return to their workplaces during the pandemic. The city, like other organizations that have office buildings, assesses workplace operations based on physical distancing requirements.

The city employs around 20,000 people, although thousands of staff, such as transit operators and police officers, do not work at offices in municipal office buildings.

Approximately 4,280 part-time employees are on leave without pay until the City can resume recreational, cultural and facility services and work at the Ottawa Public Library. The city’s student summer program has also been suspended.

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Meanwhile, the governance of the municipality is slowly accelerating.

A file photo of an April 8 council meeting with Mayor Jim Watson, the only council member in the chambers.
A file photo of an April 8 council meeting with Mayor Jim Watson, the only council member in the chambers. Photo by Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia

City staff continue to produce reports for council approval, although management may need to reconsider priorities for the term as staff attention has shifted towards the pandemic. Initially, only reports with legislative requirements went through the committee and board approval processes, but some of the regular reports are returning to the agenda.

Much of the political governance, as well as public participation, will resume next week as video conferencing for meetings rolls out in more committees.

So far, only the planning committee has met regularly through publicly accessible and live streamed video meetings. A big test took place at a joint meeting of the Planning and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, which heard from nearly 100 people via video links on the issue of expanding urban boundaries and the goal of densification.

Starting Monday, the Transport Committee and other committees will use video conferencing for meetings and to hear deputies from the public.

Board meetings are always held by teleconference.

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