The National Day of Mourning for people who have been killed and injured at work took place at The Grand Gardens Saturday morning.
“We gather for all those people who have been injured or killed at work, and for all those people with workplace illnesses,” said Sault Ste. Marie District Labour Council president Michele McCleave-Kennedy, following a moment of silence.
The theme of this year’s day of mourning is violence and harassment in the workplace, which gave union and labour representatives a platform to address the dangers of toxic and volatile work environments.
For OPSEU region 6 executive board member Tara Maszczakiewicz, the event allowed her the opportunity to talk about the workplace violence that unionized workers with OPSEU face in correctional facilities.
“Chronic understaffing, overcrowding, absolutely inadequate facilities have led exponential increases in violence throughout our correctional facilities,” Maszczakiewicz said. “Inmate on staff, inmate on inmate have all increased.”
“It literally is almost impossible to explain in polite company what the COs, nurses and support staff are exposed to on a daily basis.”
Maszczakiewicz says that the hospitalization of correctional officers and staff is so frequent, it’s not even possible to keep up, and that officers have taken it upon themselves to launch a ‘crisis in corrections’ campaign in order to draw attention to the issue and pressure for changes. She asserted that correctional officers should be recognized as first responders, with the ability to receive compensation claims for post traumatic stress disorder.
“In our mental health areas, there have so many incidents in offices and facilities, that our mental health division has had to launch a workplace violence awareness campaign, first of all to actually educate our members that violence is not an inherent part of their job,” Maszczakiewicz said. “It’s not an inherent part of any of our jobs.”
Speakers who addressed the crowd on Saturday on behalf on workers rallied for legislation that would combat workplace abuses in all its forms, whether it be sexual, physical or emotional.
“Violence and harassment are not part of the job,” said McCleaves-Kennedy. “Violence and harassment are a daily reality of far too many workers in Canada.”
“Both are preventable and neither should be tolerated.”