Statement from Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services on Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre
Today, Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, released the following statement:
"Significant efforts have been made to reach an agreement to end a prolonged labour dispute at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre which has seen correctional officers off the job for more than three weeks. However, we have reached an impasse. To keep workers and inmates safe and return the facility to normal operations as quickly as possible, my ministry will now be filing an illegal strike application with the Ontario Labour Relations Board. A safe working environment across all detention facilities in Ontario is a priority for the government and we recognize and appreciate the important role of all our correctional staff in keeping our inmates and communities safe. However, correctional officers at the Hamilton detention centre have refused to perform their duties since Aug. 15. After receiving a complaint following the discovery of a missing electrical outlet cover on the fourth floor of the facility, a Ministry of Labour inspector visited the institution on Aug. 14 and Aug. 15. The inspector's final report noted that the employer had agreed to a staff request that the search of the fourth floor be conducted by staff wearing protective vests. It also noted that a provision of the Ontario Health and Safety Act allowing workers under certain conditions to refuse to perform their duties did not apply in this case. Despite that decision, and despite an offer by the ministry to bring in a mediator, correctional officers have refused to work for 24 days, and managers have had to perform their duties. This is unacceptable, and it is a threat to safety. It is vital that correctional officers comply with management orders and follow the institution's policies and procedures. The safety of both staff and inmates and the security of our correctional facilities depend upon it. We cannot allow labour disruptions to continue to interfere with the delivery of critical public services. Management met with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union on a number of occasions in an attempt to negotiate a resolution to the disruption. I also met personally with union representatives to discuss the situation. Over the course of 24 days the ministry has made 18 offers in good faith to facilitate a return to normal operations, including having specialized teams conduct the highest level of search of the entire institution. Management also agreed to allow correctional officers to wear vests beyond those times when they are required, as an interim measure while the ministry reviewed the current policy in conjunction with the union. The union has rejected every offer. We cannot allow this protracted disruption to drag on. I would like to thank all of those staff members who have contributed to the safe and secure operation of the detention centre. I understand that it has been a challenging time and I appreciate your hard work over the last few weeks."