The bargaining team representing 1,200 employees at Waypoint made the decision to suspend talks after the employer refused to consider union proposals on health and safety on June 24.
“This is not the outcome we wanted on our second day of bargaining but we had no other choice, given the health and safety risks that our members face daily.” “We are talking about people coming to work expecting to be injured and afraid for their lives. This is unacceptable,” said John Wardell, Bargaining team chair.
Since moving into a new facility in May 2014, staff have experienced an increase in the severity and frequency of physical assaults by patients. In addition, new health and safety risks stemming from structural and technological problems with the building are also adding to the increased incidents.
There have been at least 13 incidents of physical assaults against staff by patients resulting in injury. Most recently on June 15, a patient left his secured room brandishing a homemade sword, forcing the facility into lock down. This breach resulted in unprecedented action by the employer. The OPP was called, charges were laid against the patient and he was removed from the facility. The Ministry of Labour also completed an investigation and issued orders to the employer.
The Ministry of Labour has been involved in numerous complaints under the Health and Safety Act and has issued numerous compliance orders. There have been issues with patients fashioning weapons from furniture, wall sockets, and metal strappings behind the drywall.
There have been chronic failures in the central computerized lock system for all areas in the facility. These failures have resulted in numerous lock downs and have placed staff at greater risk.
“No one in this province should be going to work expecting to get hurt, or worse. This employer has the opportunity to work with us through the bargaining process, to fix the health and safety debacle at Waypoint. This needs to be a top priority right now,” said OPSEU President, Warren (Smokey) Thomas.
The union will apply for conciliation on June 30.
John Wardell, OPSEU Local 329, President
Cell: (705) 717-1797
Greg McVeigh, Staff Representative, OPSEU
Cell: (705) 238-0511