Corrections roars in Hamilton
Photos from the July 6 Hamilton
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It was déjà vu all over again.
Last month, corrections demonstrators shook the Ministry of
Community Safety and Correctional Services’ regional office in North Bay. This
time, the ground tremors were felt in Hamilton.
Nearly 200 demonstrators gathered in front of the
Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre on a weather-perfect summer day to once
again protest against health and safety reprisals by the Ministry of Community
Safety and Correctional Services. Alongside the Hamilton members of Local 248
were corrections representatives from Niagara D.C., Stratford Jail,
Elgin-Middlesex D.C., Toronto Jail, Maplehurst Complex, Central East C.C.,
Quinte D.C. and Brockville.
Last March, Hamilton police reported to the jail that a gun may
be hidden in the institution. A high priority search for the weapon began, but
members at HWDC then did a health and safety work refusal after the
superintendent inexplicably downgraded the level of the search. Members now face
a threat of disciplinary action for the refusal.
At the noon-hour rally, a lengthy list of speakers lined up at
the microphone to show their support for the members at Hamilton. Among them:
NDP MPPs Andrea Horwath and Peter Kormos; Don Fraser from the Hamilton District
Labour Council; Canadian Labour Congress Secretary-Treasurer Hassan Yussuff;
North Bay Jail President Mike Bisaillon; and Corrections MERC Chair Dan
All the speakers expressed their disgust and outrage at the
actions of the Corrections Ministry, and promised to support the Hamilton
correctional officers in the days and weeks ahead.
“Absolutely unacceptable and inappropriate,” said Andrea Horwath
in reference to management downgrading the risks involved in the search. “There
are no ‘acceptable’ risks inside a place like this.”
Peter Kormos, never one to shy away from speaking his mind, said
he stands at the side of those protecting public safety. “It is never wrong to
fight for safe workplaces,” he said. “We will make sure your voices are heard at
Both Don Fraser and Hassan Yussuff made the point that the right
to refuse unsafe work is sacred. “At labour council meetings, we read off the
names of those killed and injured on the job…we don’t want to add yours,” Fraser
said. “However long it takes to win this fight, we will be there one day
longer,” Yussuff added.
Local 248 President Steve Smith was proud to see so many
supporters out for his members. “The only thing that management would talk about
during the refusal was that they wouldn’t talk about it,” Smith said. “I would
rather be organizing this protest than the funeral of one of my brothers or
MERC Chair Dan Sidsworth thanked OPSEU President Smokey Thomas
for his support and the support of OPSEU’s Executive Board, especially 1st
Vice-President/Treasurer Patti Rout and the nine Board members who were able to
come to the rally. “We can’t do this without you,” he said. “This Ministry is
not listening. We’re ready to talk, but not if they don’t hear what we say.”
OPSEU President Smokey Thomas was the last speaker of the event,
and he started with a quote he heard years ago from a friend. “It’s your health,
your safety, and your life…don’t leave work without it.”
Thomas also wanted to remind the Ministry that the members at
Hamilton have a long history of standing up for their rights. “You are no
different than police or firefighters,” he said. “Every precaution is always
taken when they are in a dangerous situation. It is the same thing here.”
Thomas also sent a message to the Minister, Monte Kwinter.
“These reprisals must stop now,” he said. “We will talk to you,
but not while you are threatening our members. If not, then it is going to be a
long, hot summer for you, and it will continue right up until the Oct. 10
Plans for the next rally in early August are in the works. Stay
tuned for further details.
Are you on the list?
Lock Talk is sent to all members of the
Correction Division who have valid e-mail addresses listed with OPSEU. If
you aren’t on the list, please send your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, call Don Ford (ext. 7442) at
1-800-268-7376 or (416) 443-8888. e-mail:
Original authorized for distribution by Warren (Smokey)