Worried corrections staff at provincial jails hit with climbing COVID-19 cases are demanding better protective gear to keep them safe on the job.
The Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union has filed a grievance on behalf of more than 2,000 correctional officers it represents against their employer: the provincial government.
The grievance says the employer is failing to properly protect staff by not providing full medical personal protective equipment and exposing them to unnecessary risk. That's contrary to provisions of the Workplace Safety and Health Act, and their collective agreement, the grievance says.
"For weeks, we’ve been calling on the government to make this necessary change to protect staff and inmates," the MGEU said in a statement sent Friday to the Free Press.
"By not doing so, they are failing to properly protect correctional staff and inmates and exposing them to unnecessary risk."
On Friday, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said there were 141 COVID-19 cases at Headingley Correctional Centre, which is experiencing the largest outbreak within a provincial jail. On Wednesday, there were 112 cases.
As the number increases in Manitoba jails, so does the stress and concern among correctional officers and inmates, the union said. To stop the spread of COVID-19, correctional officers need to have medical-grade PPE for all inmate interactions, even if the inmate and officer are asymptomatic, it said.
"Since the government has not answered our call to provide medical-grade PPE — gloves, masks, eye protection and gowns — we have now filed a grievance on behalf of the over 2,000 correctional officers we represent," the union said. "It is our hope that through this channel we will get the protection these officers and inmates deserve."
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.