Assault on youth worker raises alarm

"The government needs to take some responsibility and impose uniform safety regulations – not to mention eligibility for WSIB — from one end of the province to the other." — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU

Oakville (19 Aug. 2016) — The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) is expressing concern in the wake of a resident assault on a worker at the Syl Apps Youth Centre. A court has imposed a fine of $125,000 on Kinark Child and Family Services, which runs the facility, for failing to provide information, instruction, and supervision to protect an employee from workplace violence.

Different health and safety regulations in Ontario's youth corrections sector

“This incident highlights the dangers workers are exposed to in correctional facilities run by the broader public sector,” said Len Mancini, Vice-Chair of OPSEU’s Justice Sector. “There’s always a risk of harm when staff enter any correctional workplace. But it’s high time that safety and security regulations were standardized in the broader public sector, just as they are in the public sector.”

Ontario’s youth justice facilities are run by two different sets of policy guidelines, depending on whether they are part of the Ontario Public Service (OPS) or the broader public service (BPS). Both are ultimately funded from the provincial purse.

Consistent standards benefit workers

Notwithstanding the ongoing crisis in corrections, OPS correctional staff benefit from consistent standards across the province. However, health and safety regulations and access to safety equipment vary widely across BPS workplaces. Further, many workers in the BPS are ineligible for Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) benefits.

“Syl Apps staff are eligible for WSIB,” Mancini continued. “However, that’s not the case for many other youth correctional staff doing the same job, ultimately paid by the province, but working for a different employer. It makes no sense — and it’s grossly unfair.”

Time for meaningful action

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas agreed with Mancini. “What you have here is two different sets of playing cards for the same game. Only this is no game: it’s a matter of life and death."

“Health, safety, and security regulations in OPS corrections are standardized,” he said. “What’s required in Toronto is required in Ottawa and Thunder Bay and so on. Not so in the BPS. What one agency thinks is necessary in Oakville is maybe considered excessive by another in Sudbury."

“This is clearly an unjust and unsafe state of affairs. It puts at risk the lives and well-being of both staff and residents," said Thomas. "The government needs to take some responsibility and impose uniform safety regulations — not to mention eligibility for WSIB — from one end of the province to the other."

“Syl Apps just lost $125,000. Next time they could lose an employee. It’s time for meaningful action.”

NUPGE 

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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