(Toronto) The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has filed an appeal with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) to order Providence Care Mental Health Services to place security on an inpatient unit where staff have been repeatedly attacked.
A Ministry of Labour (MOL) Inspector visited Providence Care, Mental Health Services in Kingston on Oct. 20 after a worker complained of inadequate safety measures on the Adult Mental Health Unit One. Staff have been threatened, choked, spat on, punched and kicked. Workplace violence on Unit One has increased because of chronic short-staffing of the unit at night and on weekends.
“We know when staff aren’t safe, that means the patients aren’t safe either,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “When employers break the law, we need the Ministry of Labour to make them stop. Strong enforcement of our laws is vital to address the imbalance of power in the workplace.”
Providence Care claims it cannot afford to hire security professionals who are trained to intervene and prevent violence. This is despite the Occupational Health and Safety Act requiring employers to take all reasonable measures to control the risk of workplace violence.
In the past year, Providence Care Mental Health Services saw more than 300 incidents of workplace violence.
It is OPSEU’s position that the MOL has the authority to order security to protect front line staff as they would order protective devices in other workplaces. In effect, OLRB vice-chair Kelly Waddingham, in a decision on November 26, 2014, confirmed that MOL inspectors have this authority when she ordered Brockville Mental Health Centre to place trained security professionals on its forensic unit after a nurse was stabbed in the neck by a patient with a documented history of violence.
The Ontario Labour Relations Board is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal mandated to mediate and adjudicate a variety of employment and labour relations-related matters under a number of Ontario statutes.