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Union slams Ministry of Labour for “outrageous failure” to protect staff at Waypoint

We the North
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Penetanguishene – The union local at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health is outraged over a series of Ministry of Labour (MoL) orders issued yesterday in the wake of a violent attack that injured four staff April 5.

“Staff in the provincial forensic program at Waypoint are subject to violent abuse every day, and we expected the ministry to order our employer to make the changes that would keep us safe,” said Pete Sheehan, president of Local 329 of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. “That didn’t happen. It’s an outrageous failure.”

Waypoint has been plagued with violent incidents since clients moved into the new Atrium building in 2014, Sheehan said.

“The Ministry of Labour has called on Waypoint to do another risk assessment, which to me is total garbage,” said Sheehan. “They’re still not addressing our members’ safety.”

Sheehan agreed with the MoL that the hospital needs better policies in place to account for tools used in its vocational services program. But the ministry ignored the union’s 10-point plan to increase safety, he said.

“The provincial forensics program at Waypoint is the only maximum security facility of its kind in Ontario,” Sheehan said. “Our medium security facility has walk-through metal detectors. Our maximum security facility doesn’t. The ministry should have ordered metal detectors at ward fronts, in vocational services, and in our recreational centres. We need mandatory pat-down searches when clients leave vocational services. We need more staff to ensure that no staff person is required to escort a client through the building alone.

“The Ministry of Labour orders ignored all these recommendations from the union, and more.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said the union “will not rest” until safety concerns at Waypoint are dealt with. “Violence is not a condition of employment that anyone agrees to accept when taking a job,” he said. We will continue to support Local 329, and all workers in dangerous workplaces, in every way we can.”

For more information: Pete Sheehan 705-209-9050