The agreement to allow full searches of the institution is a step forward but underlying problems of over-crowding, low staffing, inadequate training and lack of security equipment remain.
London, ON (12 Sept. 2014) — An agreement has been reached to end the nearly week-long health and safety dispute at London’s Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre.
After nearly two days of meetings with senior ministry officials, including a meeting held today between Corrections Minister Yasir Naqvi, Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and OPSEU Regional Vice-President Ron Elliot, the union signed an agreement that will allow for a full search of the institution so that normalized operations can resume as soon as possible.
On site leadership played key role in reaching agreement
Dan Sidsworth, chair of the OPSEU Corrections Division, said that local union officials also played a key role in the negotiations.
“Both Local President Dominic Bragaglia and Vice-President Rick Kennett worked tirelessly to ensure that officers at EMDC, as well as the inmates, were kept safe during the dispute and added their expertise in getting the situation resolved,” Sidsworth said.
“What is unfortunate is that this situation was allowed to drag on for nearly a week when it could have been resolved with this search agreement on the very first day.”
Short term fix but underlying problems remain
OPSEU President Thomas said that while he is hoping normal operations at the facility can resume shortly, the underlying issues of short staffing, inadequate training and lack of security equipment remain a problem, not only at EMDC, but across the province. “Today, we solved this problem,” Thomas said.
“But unless the ministry commits to addressing the bigger issues, this won’t be the last time our members face a critical incident.”
Long way to go towards creating a safe working environment
Sidsworth said that mechanisms and supports have been put in place to review the searches as they are carried out, which could last up to three days. “During that time, inmates will remain on lockdown, but essential movement for courts, legal visits, health care and meals will be carried out.”
He also said he has reached an agreement with the Ministry to review the standing orders (operational rules and policies) at the over two dozen adult correctional facilities in Ontario. “This will be a positive start, but the ministry has a long way to go to providing the safest working environment possible for the men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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