Municipal staff

Municipal staff shortage problem on the mend, vaccination rate jumps

Staff shortages fueled by Omicron are improving and 99% of city staff are either fully vaccinated or intend to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Although the city continues to face staffing shortages due to the current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic fueled by the Omicron variant, things appear to be improving.

The problem was worse earlier this month, when curbside collection in some neighborhoods was not completed on schedule, but this problem has not continued in recent days.

So described the city’s general manager of business services, Kevin Fowke, who said he hopes improvements in some areas will point to greater stability in the future.

“There are so many people who have had mild symptoms or tested positive, and you hope that means it is running its course and there are fewer people who are likely to be affected by it,” a- he said, adding that there was still a lot of uncertainty and the city needed to stay nimble.

In the event that waste collection staff levels again affect service, the city’s director of environmental services, Renee Brownlee, said residents will be notified via the city’s Facebook page. If the material is not collected by 9 p.m., she said it would likely be picked up the next day.

People can also call the city’s customer service department at 311 for the latest information.

Although it was feared that additional bus routes could be canceled due to staff shortages, only one GOVA Transit route remains suspended, with Route 4 from Laurentian University via Paris Street being removed from the streets until more drivers return to work.

While this is one of the most visible areas of disruption to city staff, city manager Ed Archer noted that there are currently 53 staff from various departments redeployed to help at the Pioneer Manor, a long-term care home operated by the city.

“They do the back office, so they mainly help with food services – that is delivering meals and feeding residents; that’s where the greatest needs are,” he said, adding that they also help with laundry, maintenance, housekeeping, screening people at the gate of entrance and administrative work.

Most of those employees have been redeployed from recreation services, whose operations were largely shut down during the latest round of COVID restrictions imposed by the province.

Many of those employees will return to their regular jobs on Monday as the province eases restrictions and recreation facilities begin to reopen, but Fowke said Pioneer Manor will remain well served due to more regular staff returning to work after being on leave due to quarantine requirements.

Another benefit for municipal staff levels is that more employees return to work after being vaccinated.

When the city’s vaccination mandate went into effect Nov. 15, 139 city employees were placed on unpaid leave until they complied and received COVID-19 vaccines.

As of January 20, that number had fallen to 46 employees, 20 of whom indicated they were in the process of achieving compliance.

Of the 26 people who indicated they had no intention of getting the COVID-19 vaccine, Fowke said the “vast majority” are volunteer firefighters. The fight against the decline in the number of firefighters was the integration last year of 64 new volunteer firefighters.

With only 26 employees indicating their intention not to be vaccinated, the city’s planned non-compliance with the vaccination mandate is about 1% compared to a total workforce of about 2,500 full-time equivalent positions.

On Wednesday, Public Health Sudbury & Districts noted that 82.2% of residents aged five and older are fully immunized, meaning the municipality’s 99% compliance rate is well above that of the general population.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.