“Once we’re through this emergency, things cannot go back to business as usual. Long term changes need to be made.” ― Bob Bymoen, SGEU/NUPGE President
Regina (30 March 2020) ― On Friday, it was confirmed that two Correction Officers in Saskatoon have tested positive for COVID-19. The confirmed cases raise serious concerns regarding the safety of Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union (SGEU/NUPGE) members across the justice system.
More information and clarity needed
“We have been asking the Government for a plan for our corrections officers since the pandemic first broke. We are working with Government and, while they are assuring us they are doing everything they can, we need more transparency,” said Bob Bymoen, SGEU President. “More information is needed and we need clarity on actions being taken. The health and safety of front-line staff must be a top concern.”
Overcrowding a longstanding issue
Overcrowding in correctional facilities and close confinement are leading to specific challenges for corrections workers during the current pandemic. SGEU/NUPGE is working with members and shop stewards on the front lines to ensure that information is being shared as quickly and accurately as possible.
“These people are working under the toughest circumstances and are worried. We have repeatedly raised the alarm about their safety,” said Bymoen. “Now overcrowding and lack of proper safety equipment means that they are also facing the threat of a serious COVID-19 outbreak. We need action right now.”
Action needed now more than ever before
Bymoen noted that some actions the government must prioritize immediately are:
- Increased testing of inmates, corrections staff, and deputy sheriffs.
- Immediate provision of essentials for staff in correctional facilities and courts such as masks and gloves.
- Open and transparent pandemic communication for staff and inmates.
Bymoen added that the current pandemic has demonstrated the vulnerability of our correctional centres to disease outbreaks, providing another reason why the longstanding problem of overcrowding needs to be aggressively addressed.
“Once we’re through this emergency things cannot go back to business as usual. Long term changes need to be made,” said Bymoen.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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