OPSEU/SEFPO is alarmed by ongoing incidents at the new Toronto courthouse, which have raised serious concerns for the health and safety of our members working on-site.
At this time, the union is aware of at least two members who have been injured on the job – one of whom sustained a serious injury due to falling shelves, getting hit on the head by metal and boxes.
The Ministry of the Attorney General has ordered Infrastructure Ontario and EllisDon to launch a review of the entire building due to these incidents. The Joint Health and Safety Committee will continue to review the building and work environment to ensure the safety of everyone at the courthouse, including staff and the general public. Our union will continue to demand real solutions to the ongoing crisis in our courts.
These serious health and safety concerns are just the latest in a series of problems at the courthouse in downtown Toronto. Earlier this month, media outlets across the GTA began following the situation at courthouse after news broke that at least two cases have been thrown out due to a dire staffing shortage.
For years, OPSEU/SEFPO has warned about the havoc that the closure of several smaller courthouses and amalgamation into the new downtown location on Armoury Street may cause, including hardship for staff and access to justice issues for many marginalized people involved in the justice system who live far from Toronto’s downtown.
The Ford government went ahead anyway – and too quickly – awarding EllisDon a 956-million-dollar contract to build and maintain the new courthouse. Now we are starting to see the consequences.
The courthouse amalgamations that saw the closure of courthouses in Scarborough, Etobicoke, and North York have thrown the court system into chaos – compounding pre-existing issues of poor working conditions and low wages. The courts were already strained and chronically understaffed prior to the amalgamation, and workloads were already excessive. The new courthouse has only served to increase workloads, create stress, long hours, courtroom closures, concerns around garbage disposal and hygiene, and now serious health and safety concerns.
The Ford government must address courthouse workers’ concerns immediately.