Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO is pleased that the Ford government listened to the union and is including thousands of corrections members in phase two of the province’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, set to begin in April.
“This is absolutely the right thing to do, and the government deserves credit for ensuring our Corrections members get vaccinated,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “This will go a long way to making our correctional facilities safe, protecting both staff and inmates. We hope the government will give our members in youth correctional centres the same vaccination opportunities that have been offered in adult facilities.”
According to the vaccination plan, phase two includes, among others, “people who live and work in high-risk congregate settings” and “front-line essential workers, including first responders.” The union has fought for years to have correctional officers recognized as first responders in legislation.
“MERC and the Provincial Health and Safety Committee have been tirelessly engaged with the ministry since early autumn to make sure correctional workers get vaccinated at the same time as other essential and critical workers in Ontario,” said Chad Oldfield, chair of the Ministry Employee Relations Committee for Adult Corrections. “We increased our efforts during multiple outbreaks in institutions until the government announced its plans for phase-two vaccinations in January.
“We’re very pleased the government has incorporated adult correctional workers in their vaccination rollout, as this will help keep our adult correctional facilities and our communities safe. We’ll continue to advocate for vaccinations until they’ve been made available to every correctional worker in Ontario.”
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, himself a correctional officer, said it is common sense to have correctional staff vaccinated as soon as possible. “Our corrections members’ work puts them very close to inmates. No matter what precautions you take, officers can’t help coming into contact with them. That’s a serious risk to everyone’s health, and that’s why we must get all our correctional members vaccinated as soon as supply allows.”
Staff at some institutions will not have to wait till April, with Kenora Jail members getting vaccinated this week and Fort Frances staff next week. Northern Ontario has seen an alarming resurgence in COVID-19 cases over the last several days.
“Corrections workers are among the most vulnerable to getting COVID-19 in Ontario,” said Thomas. “Let’s get them all vaccinated ASAP so they can focus on keeping the rest of us safe from harm.”
For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; OPSEUCommunications@opseu.org