HAMILTON, ON, Sept. 12, 2012 /CNW/ - The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) has reached an agreement with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services with respect to the nearly month-long health and safety dispute at Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre (HWDC).
In a settlement achieved in the late evening of September 11, any discipline or reduction in pay by the employer will be subject to arbitration before the Grievance Settlement Board. In addition, Correctional Officers in every institution across Ontario will now be allowed to wear their protective vests at any time during the course of their duties.
"The fact that our officers will be able to properly protect themselves on the job is a major victory," said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President. "The sacrifices made by the officers at HWDC allowed us to achieve that. Our members' safety is of paramount importance."
Dan Sidsworth, Provincial Chair of OPSEU's Corrections Division, said that while the union would have liked to resolve all the issues that arose during the dispute, the health and safety issues were the most important. The settlement allowed for provisions that would not have been possible at an Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) hearing.
"We made gains in health and safety, and our members will be allowed to dispute any disciplinary or economic sanctions by the employer," Sidsworth said. "If the OLRB hearing had gone ahead, the main argument would have been about the work stoppage, and the safety issue would have been a side matter for the Board."
Sidsworth thanks the members of the Corrections Division across Ontario for the tremendous backing they have shown the officers in Hamilton over the past month. "The outpouring of support from all of our facilities has been unprecedented," said Sidsworth. "Officers in Hamilton took a firm stand not only for themselves, but for every correctional officer who risks their life to protect the people of Ontario. Ontario's Correctional Officers thank them, and the union thanks them for their determination, strength and conviction."
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