Suspended correctional officer outlines remand safety concerns
EDMONTON – In several emails provided to the Alberta Liberal party, Todd Ross, one of the Correctional Peace Officers suspended Friday, outlines safety issues with the new remand centre prior to the strike.
In one email (several emails are posted in their entirety below), addressed to Edmonton Remand Centre Executive Director Mike Tholenaer, Ross – the AUPE Local 3 Chapter 8 chair – writes:
“Don’t cower in your office, stop planning your retirement, there is a lot of work to do!”
“Shame on you and Ms. Scott [Assoc. Executive Director Cathy Scott] for not having worried about all the details and opening the largest Correctional Centre in Canada with no Policy and Procedures in place.”
“Yes, of course you posted a few S.O.P.’s a couple of weeks before, giving no time for staff to read, review and know. Post Orders and SSO’s were posted less than 30 hours before opening.”
He goes on to write:
“Staff are being injured, intimidated and resigning faster than you can replace them… you have failed to listen to your management team and the line staff concerns.”
The following day, Ross emails Deputy Solicitor General Tim Grant, saying Tholenaer and Scott had rejected his request to meet with the union executive to “discuss the issues of the Correctional Peace Officers.”
Ross says “we are now overflowing female inmates on mental health units with low functioning, protective custody and administrative segregation inmates… This is also happening on the male mental health units, it’s absurd to think we would put our most violent, manipulative inmates in with the weak and mentally deranged.”
“If we were allowed to meet with someone who cares about our mandate, we could improve our service. The frustration continues to build, the Correctional Peace Officers want a voice and they want to be heard.”
Ross’ email was sent April 23. The strike at the Edmonton Remand Centre began Friday, April 26.
During a news conference Monday afternoon, Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk said the labour unrest was caused – not by safety concerns – but a conflict between Ross and his superior.
“An AUPE member has indicated today earlier in the media…that employee is actually indicating that none of this has to do anything with occupational health and safety, but as a matter of fact, is a personality conflict between himself and his boss that gave rise to this unrest,” said Lukaszuk.
“Frankly, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I can assure you that we have taken all the steps possible to make sure that the facility is safe, if indeed safety is the cause.”
He said on March 14, the AUPE and the government signed off on a hazard assessment document after assessing the entire facility. He said, after that, a clean bill of health was given by Occupational Health and Safety for the centre.
“No issues identified whatsoever.”
Lukaszuk stressed any negotiation with striking workers and the union will not take place until those involved abide by the Labour Board’s Saturday ruling that the strike is illegal and employees must return to work.
“We will not be negotiating those issues outside of the legal protocols that have been put in place, have been tested over time, and have been agreed upon by both labour unions and employers.”