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FRCC Members Refuse Unsafe Work: Correctional Officers Still at Risk - BCGEU

On Friday, January 22 and Saturday, January 23, six BCGEU members at FRCC exercised their right to refuse unsafe work under s. 3.12 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. They refused to work in a living unit where confirmed COVID-19 positive inmates were being housed with inmates who had tested COVID-19 negative.
Our members were specifically concerned by: the failure to isolate the COVID-19 inmates in a separate living unit-despite one being available; the absence of plexiglass barriers at their desk-despite the recommendation of a joint provincial risk assessment; the exercising of the COVID-19 positive inmates in too large of groups while out of their cells; and, the interference of their Tyvek coveralls with their PAT and their ability to access their utility belts. Our members were also justifiably concerned about the increased risk of COVID-19 exposure to their families.
WorkSafeBC met with the members, and representatives of the employer and the union, that same day. Unfortunately, the Inspection Report produced by WorkSafeBC falls well short of protecting the best interests and safety of our members: View the Inspection Report here
It is the BCGEU's position that the employer in this case could be doing more to be proactive in protecting the safety of our members. The obvious step of isolating COVID-19 inmates from other inmates and COs to the extent possible was overlooked, and the opportunity to correct the problem was missed by WorkSafeBC.
"I can assure you the union raised all of the concerns put forward by our members in a call with the WCB Inspector even though they weren't listed in his report. These were very sound and valid safety concerns that make perfect sense in order to contain the spread of the virus, but BC Corrections would not entertain any of our recommendations. Isolating positive tested inmates must be the priority to contain and prevent a large scale outbreak", said BCGEU Component 1 Vice-President Dean Purdy.
The BCGEU supports the reasonable measures taken by our members in refusing to perform unsafe work, and we will continue to support them in that effort. If you encounter any unsafe work in your workplace, immediately notify the employer, or a member of your Joint OH&S Committee, and remember that you always retain the right to refuse such work.
Many thanks to Local 104 1st Vice Chair Ira Kibbe and Local 104 FRCC OH&S Committee Co-chair Chris Jack for their work on this.
In solidarity,

Dean Purdy
Component 1 Vice-President