December 7, 2001
This policy really is “sick”
Toronto Jail sick time plan “like something from the Dark Ages”
Members at Local 530 are suffering harassment, losing pay and reporting for duty too sick to work due to a new local sick time policy that is stunning in its stupidity.
The Toronto Jail superintendent now requires that every employee who calls in sick produce a medical certificate, regardless of the length of the absence and regardless of the amount of sick time previously taken by that employee. While that in itself is bad enough (and harassment in the purest sense of the
word), what makes this policy even more ridiculous is the second provision. That provision is that the doctor must sign the medical certificate on the same day as the absence! Failure to produce this certificate results in a day’s pay being docked from that employee.
One would think that with Ontario suffering a huge crisis in health care, complete with doctor shortages and emergency room closures, that bureaucrats in the Ontario government would not deliberately tax the system unnecessarily. Yet employees who are ill are forced to make emergency appointments, pushing others
aside, in order to get a piece of paper to satisfy the whim of a misguided and power-hungry manager. We’re sure it is very easy for someone who calls in sick for a night shift to phone their doctor at 5 p.m. and get an appointment.
It is virtually impossible anymore to get a doctor’s appointment for the next day, let alone the same day. That leaves employees to go to emergency rooms or walk-in clinics and get examined by unfamiliar physicians whose workloads are strained to the breaking point.
“This type of employee harassment is like something from the Dark Ages,” said Barry Scanlon, chair of the OPSEU Corrections Ministry Employee Relations Committee. “It is behaviour like this that embodies everything that is wrong in Correctional Services.”
Rather than lose a day’s wages, many employees at the Toronto Jail are opting to report for work while they are sick. This just spreads illness to others at the jail, and the snowball effect begins.
OPSEU has filed a policy grievance on this issue, and a hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 14. In the meantime, OPSEU is attempting to get a hearing for interim relief, in order to force the employer to cease and desist until the grievance is heard. Although no date has been set for that hearing, it is expected
that a hearing will take place prior to the Christmas holidays.
This whole situation at the Toronto Jail is a sad commentary on the mindset of certain managers in our Ministry. What is even more distressing is the fact that no one higher up has stepped in to stop the damage being caused by a relatively low level bureaucrat.
We are reminded of the words of Malcolm X: “Power never takes a backstep - only in the face of more power.” Perhaps before then this bureaucrat will see the light.
Experience saves a life
For Local 617 vice-president Steve Lauzon, it was just another shift. But his experience and quick thinking saved a life on Nov. 19.
Steve is a correctional officer at the Sudbury Jail and also the union health and safety co-chair for Local 617. He was working the night shift when he noticed an inmate laying on the floor in segregation. Though not an uncommon occurrence, Steve felt it was suspicious. It was then he saw in the darkness that the
inmate had a noose twisted tightly around his neck. The inmate was unresponsive, and Steve immediately called for assistance.
Accompanied by unclassified correctional officer Ray Jones, Steve began CPR. The inmate was revived, and transported by ambulance to the hospital. The inmate has since recovered, and is now back at the Sudbury Jail on constant watch.
From all accounts, a less experienced correctional officer would likely have missed the fact that the inmate was dying instead of sleeping. Thanks to Steve’s experience and professionalism, we have a success story instead of a grim statistic.
At last report, the Ministry and the Sudbury Jail have failed to recognize Steve for his efforts. We here at Lock Talk and all members across the province salute Steve for his efforts. Great job, Steve.
Mediation services now available
OPSEU is proud to announce that mediators are now available to settle disputes regarding workplace harassment and discrimination.
The mediators, who were selected from a list of interested employees from both management and the bargaining unit, finished their training last week. As part of the Systemic Change Program, these mediators will assist anyone wishing to utilize their services to resolve workplace issues.
“The use of mediation in these cases has the solid endorsement from OPSEU’s Corrections Division,” said Barry Scanlon. “We encourage any member who has a problem to make use of this excellent, confidential service.”
Members who require the use of the mediation service are asked to contact Silva Minassian in Orillia at (705) 329-6647.
A vicious cycle
A story is circulating in the jails about a superintendent who took over a fairly troubled facility a while back. The former administrator at the time wished the superintendent luck, and told him that there were two envelopes in his desk. “If you ever get into hot water,” he said, “open the first envelope.”
Sure enough, six months into the job the new superintendent made some pretty bad decisions and found himself in deep trouble with the Ministry regional office. The superintendent opened his desk drawer, took out the first envelope, and read what was inside. “Blame everything on the previous superintendent,” the
note read. “If you are in trouble again, open the second envelope.” The superintendent followed the instructions and laid the blame for his mistakes directly on the lap of the previous superintendent.
Well it didn’t take long before the superintendent had once again messed up rather badly, and realized he was in a jam with the powers that be. He opened the second envelope to find his salvation. Inside he read, “Start making out two envelopes…”
Dave has a new number
MERC vice-chair Dave Graves has a new phone number. Members can contact him at (905) 751-7311.
Christmas gifts for the Resolution Warrior keep coming in as three more municipalities voted to support publicly run correctional services.
This week the count rises to 271 with the addition of The Township of Barrie Island (near Gore Bay, on Manitoulin Island), the Township of McDougall (near Parry Sound) and the Township of The North Shore (south of Elliot Lake).
Again, we thank Len Mason of Local 737 (Thunder Bay Jail) for refusing to back down from the fight.
For campaign information, call Don Ford (ext. 442) at 1-800-268-7376 or (416) 443-8888.
Ontario Public Service Employees Unionwww.opseu.org
100 Lesmill Road, Toronto, Ontario M3B 3P8
Original authorized for distribution by Leah Casselman, president.