Victoria residents lapped up the opportunity to go for a free swim at Crystal Pool on B.C.’s first Family Day.
About 1,040 people took advantage of free activities sponsored by CUPE Local 50, which represents city workers.
“There was even a 20-minute period in the afternoon when the pool was at capacity and they had to make some kids wait 20 minutes. It was pretty popular,” said John Burrows, Local 50 president.
CUPE stepped in to pay workers’ wages on Family Day after Burrows read in the Times Colonist that Crystal Pool was to be the only municipal recreational centre closed on the provincial holiday.
The union has not yet received the bill from the city, but Victoria parks and recreation director Kate Friars earlier estimated it would cost more than $2,000 to staff the facility for eight hours on the Monday holiday.
Burrows expects the cost will be in that range, although he noted that an additional lifeguard had to be brought in because attendance was so high.
Crystal Pool has been closed on statutory holidays for more than 15 years, primarily as a cost-saving measure.
Burrows suggested council might consider reviewing that policy in light of the high participation in the Family Day swim.
And he didn’t rule out future offers of help from the union.
“We’ll take a look at it down the road for sure, but it just seems to me if they had simply opened the doors and charged what they normally charge, they would have made money,” Burrows said.
The extra cost of paying workers time and a half on the stat shouldn’t be an impediment to opening, he said.
Assuming the city needs 10 employees to keep the pool open, simple math means you’re paying the equivalent of 15 workers to cover the overtime, Burrows said.
“How can an extra five employees at one of the lower ends of the wage scale possibly cost you so much money that you don’t supply that service to the public in a public facility? It’s just mind-boggling.”
Meanwhile, the high turnout thrilled some councillors.
“I was delighted that CUPE was able to come forward and make it open and prove its worth,” Coun. Chris Coleman said.
“Fabulous. Well done, CUPE!”
Council in November considered opening Crystal Pool on stats but pulled back as a cost-containment measure, Coleman said.
“When you call something a Family Day, then family recreation is part of community health,” he said.
Council should “pursue all sorts of opportunities” to make sure the pool is open on holidays, Coleman said.
Coun. Ben Isitt agreed.
“I think it excellent that the city workers stepped up to keep the facility open on Family Day, and I think we should revisit the city’s policy around statutory holidays because those are days when any family has the opportunity to do things together,” he said.
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