'It's about time," says Jim Gosse of NSGEU correctional Local 480.
Halifax (17 Aug. 2010) - The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU/NUPGE) has welcomed a provincial justice department decision making stab-proof vests mandatory for all correctional officers who interact with inmates.
The union has been raising the issue since, especially over the last two years, as the frequency of violent incidents, particularly in the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Burnside, near Dartmouth, has increased.
"The threat was there," says NSGEU president Jessome. "We had been asking for (vests) for a long time and we are very pleased that this decision was made."
Originally, vests were issued only to officers who conducted outside escorts. Then they were issued to members of intervention teams and those in the discharge and admissions areas. Only after a captain was stabbed in the abdomen Aug. 7 did the department make the change requiring all Officers who interact with inmates to wear vests.
"It's about time," says Jim Gosse of NSGEU Local 480, who points out that vests have been available for some time but not generally used until now. "Every one was custom made. Then they sat on the shelf," he notes.
Now that they are mandatory officers will have added protection but some will find it difficult to wear them at the Burnside facility because of hot working conditions. The facility was built as a public-private partnership (P3) without air conditioning.
NSGEU is working with officers to reduce the level of violence against staff at Burnside.
"It is very important that inmates are being held accountable for their behavior," says Gosse. "At Burnside, that wasn't happening as it was in other facilities."
The employer and the union have formed a staff assault working group to address the issue. A zero tolerance policy to violence was adopted by the employer as a result of advice from the group.
"We are looking to see if this policy will stop or reduce the assaults on staff at Burnside," says Gosse. "If it is backed up with action will make a difference."
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