Correctional officers unfairly forced to leave without notice or pay: OPSEU

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About 100 staff at the Maplehurst Correctional Complex have been forced to take unpaid leave during a COVID-19 outbreak despite following all employee guidelines, MERC Corrections Co-Chair Chad Oldfield said.

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“We are talking about putting food on their family’s table over the holidays,” Oldfield said on Saturday. “It’s very, very stressful.

The Ontario Public Service (OPS) rules, which cover correctional officers, do not require public servants to be vaccinated, but rather provide them with the option of being vaccinated or taking a training session and undergoing routine tests.

Maplehurst staff members were notified on November 30 that the Ontario government will no longer provide paid time off for unvaccinated staff who have had to leave their jobs due to an outbreak or infection, a- he declared.

A day later, unvaccinated staff were suddenly banned from their work site in Milton under a Sec. 22 order from Halton Public Health in response to a large number of COVID-19 cases in the correctional facility.

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Correctional officers did not have enough time to get their shots if they chose that option, Oldfield said.

“Our biggest concern is that we want our members to be treated fairly,” Oldfield said. “If the (Solicitor General’s) ministry had announced the changes earlier, I’m sure people would have less reason to be upset because they would have had a fair warning. They believed they were following a policy that was in place by the employer and that they complied and did whatever was asked of them. “

And while correctional officers who were not vaccinated or whose vaccination status was unknown have been turned away and denied paychecks, inmates and visitors, including lawyers and contractors, continue to enter the facility without requiring them to be vaccinated, the OPSEU representative said.

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The vaccination rate among inmates is not publicly known, but it is generally thought to be 30% “really, really low,” Oldfield said.

In a statement provided on Saturday, the Ministry of the Solicitor General reaffirmed that vaccination against COVID-19 is voluntary for inmates of provincial prisons.

This remains the policy despite multiple outbreaks in prisons and a case of the Omicron variant identified at the East Toronto Detention Center.

“It is important to note that provincial prison populations can change overnight with new admissions, judicial releases and sentences satisfied,” the release said. “The ministry can confirm that currently, approximately 38% of the current inmate population of the East Toronto Detention Center have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, i.e. in the community prior to their admission , or during their provincial detention. “

The ministry makes COVID-19 vaccines available to all eligible inmates on an ongoing basis and its clinical staff have access to inmate vaccination records, the statement said.

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