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OPSEU corrections members win push for surgical masks

Toronto – In a significant safety win for workers, inmates, and the public, the frontline corrections workers in OPSEU have pushed the government to begin issuing surgical masks to all workers and visitors in the province’s jails.

“This was a long struggle, but I’m proud to say that our members and our union never gave up,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Now, everybody is safer from COVID-19.”

For weeks, the elected members of OPSEU’s Provincial Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (PJOHSC) and its Ministry Employee Relations Committee (MERC) have been pressuring the government to provide the masks to workers and inmates.

“We sought these masks long before the outbreak at the Ontario Correctional Institute (OCI) in Brampton,” said Chris Jackel, chair of OPSEU’s Corrections Division. “We’re confident having them will help prevent outbreaks at other institutions.” 

The victory with masks isn’t the first for OPSEU’s corrections members. Since the pandemic began, they have won a series of safety measures for themselves, inmates, and the public.

“We won’t stop fighting for safety because we understand how important it is to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Ryan Graham, co-chair of the PJOHSC. “That’s why we’ve been successful in our push for active screening and temperature-taking, for intake units where new inmates are kept isolated from the general population for 14 days, and for enhanced cleaning.”

OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, who is himself a Correctional Officer, applauded his fellow members’ determination and resolve.

“They’ve made other recommendations to government that they’ll have to keep pushing for, and I know they’ll never quit,” said Almeida. “That’s why Ontario Corrections is leading the way in safety measures for workers, inmates, and the public compared to all other jurisdictions across the country.”

For more information: 
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931