MONTREAL -- Municipal employee unions in Quebec are calling on cities not to make the current crisis worse by laying off workers. They are calling on the Legault government to relax the law that prevents cities from running deficits.

Quebec, Donnacona, Blainville, Mascouche and others have already announced temporary layoffs due to the coronavirus pandemic. They cite lack of work and the fact that a law prohibits them from recording deficits.

“Now is not the time to lay off workers, even though these municipal employees may be assigned other duties,” said Marc Ranger, Quebec director of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), in an interview on Monday.

CUPE is affiliated with the FTQ.

“These employees should be assigned to flood monitoring and response, for example, and disinfecting street furniture. They can also be loaned to community organizations or contact elderly people who are alone,” suggested Ranger.

The union leader reminds cities that their taxes have not been reduced, that their payments are only postponed.

CUPE represents 72 percent of white-collar and blue-collar municipal employees in all cities in Quebec.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2020.