OPSEU/SEFPO calls for end to harassment against front-line workers at London jail

Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is calling for an end to the violent threats and harassment against correctional workers at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC), saying cooler heads must prevail while the investigative process unfolds.

“OPSEU/SEFPO supports people’s right to protest,” Thomas said during a media conference organized by the union. “But we cannot allow threats and intimidation against front-line workers. All parties must take a step back and let the investigative agencies do their job; not speculate based on jailhouse gossip.”

Since July 17, correctional staff at EMDC have faced numerous threats by members of outlaw biker gangs, following the death of an inmate at the London jail and a series of unsubstantiated media reports. The union is calling on the Ministry of the Solicitor General to intervene.

“We’ve called on the Solicitor General to take immediate action to protect front-line correctional staff and denounce the vicious threats and harassment by these outlaw biker gangs,” said Thomas. “Nobody should be threatened with violence when reporting to work, especially those who put their lives on the line to protect others and keep our communities safe. To the Minister’s credit, she has responded in part to our concerns.”

OPSEU/SEFPO Corrections Ministry-Employee Relations Committee (MERC) Co-Chair Chad Oldfield pointed to the already dangerous, and high-stress environment in which correctional staff work.

“Correctional workers, including our members from EMDC, have some of the toughest jobs in Ontario,” said Oldfield. “On top of working in extremely dangerous environments, we are working in facilities that are chronically under-resourced and under-staffed, and have been for years. The Ministry needs to make a further, long-term financial commitment to addressing the conditions and staffing levels at EMDC and all of the institutions across the province.”

The union, which represents some 9,000 correctional workers, says these dedicated individuals work in corrections because they want to protect their community and keep it safe.

“The staff working in our jails are part of the community,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “A death in the workplace hits them hard as well – it’s a tragedy that they also feel. But, despite the trauma and difficulty, they continue to show up. They’ve shown up during the COVID crisis, throughout the opioid crisis and long before that too.

“It’s time for the Ministry to do the same,” said Almeida. “To show up for front-line workers and inmates, and fix the crisis in corrections once and for all.”

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