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Grievance Board blasts jail management for misconduct

North Bay – The Grievance Settlement Board has ruled in favour of a union official at North Bay Jail accused of “bullying, harassing, intimidating and threating individuals in the workplace” over three years ago. Mike Bisaillon, then president of Local 616 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), was suspended with pay for three months for his alleged actions.

Board Vice-Chair Bram Herlich dismissed all allegations brought by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS), characterizing them as nothing more substantial than rumours. Herlich ordered the ministry to pay $5,000 in compensation to Bisaillon and $20,000 to OPSEU – an unprecedented award from the board.

In a stinging rebuke of both their conduct and motives, Herlich raked senior MCSCS management over the coals for their “conspiracy to target the grievor and teach him a lesson.” He singled out North Bay superintendent Lou-Ann Lucier for acting out of “anti-union animus.”

Herlich went on to slam the employer for abusing its own workplace discrimination and harassment policy, which it used to justify its conduct towards Bisaillon.

As a further act of reparation, Herlich ordered the ministry to post a notice in North Bay Jail promising, among other things, not to discourage union membership, interfere with the union’s representatives, or remove union notices. The ministry must also promise to “make Michel Bisaillon and the union whole for the damages they have suffered.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said the board’s decision represented a huge win for the rights of working people to be represented by a union and to be protected against employer intimidation.

“This is a great day, not just for Mike and OPSEU, but for every worker in Ontario who is represented by a union or wants to be,” Thomas said. “This employer used dirty tactics to tarnish the good name of a local president and attack the whole union. They violated the collective agreement and they broke the law. Now they’ve been exposed and will pay the price for their misdeeds.

“I warmly congratulate Mike and salute him for his courage and determination in seeking justice over a gruelling three-year battle. While the crisis in corrections continues, today justice has been done.”

For more information: Timothy Humphries, A/Bilingual Communications Officer, OPSEU, 416-432-6907

Related: Crisis In Corrections index page