Hamilton Despite a previous assurance that there would be no seasonal staff layoffs and an infusion of $1.87 million in short-term provincial funding, 21 Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) groundskeepers have abruptly been given layoff notices with no date of return by the new RBG restructuring officer, says the union representing RBG employees.
Gus Oliveira, the president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 5167, says the union received notice of the pending layoffs through a terse letter late last week.
Just over a year ago, we were assured the RBG had a surplus, that expansion was imminent, and that there would be no seasonal layoffs of staff. Its just not acceptable the staff be used as pawns in a very public political game over funding between the province and the RBG. The livelihood of workers is too important, and the RBG should not be using them as a ploy in their political posturing that signals a threat to close the gardens permanently, says Oliveira.
The layoffs, effective October 7, leave the RBG with only 18 staff positions at a time of the year when there would normally be a full complement of staff to prepare the gardens for the winter season. Five RBG positions have remained unfilled for nearly a year. The notice does not include a date of return for the laid off workers, a common practice in jobs that are identified as seasonal.
The public should be made aware that there is no date of return for these workers. This is a move that, along with the previously unfilled positions, can either be considered a threat to close the gardens or to severely scale down RBG operations including key environmental protection programs. There are thousands of local people who are RBG volunteers, and many more in the community who value the gardens. For those who want to have the RBG remain open in the future, these job layoffs should be of major concern, says Oliveira.
Oliveira is asking former Hamilton mayor Robert Wade and regional planner David Carter, recently appointed to head a review of the RBG, to include open consultation with the public, RBG workers and volunteers, as part of the process.