Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

August 14, 2009 17:20 ET

OPSEU: Health Care Workers Still at Risk Despite CAMH Guilty Plea and Fine

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Aug. 14, 2009) - Health care workers can take some small comfort in the $70,000 fine levied against the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) for failing to comply with the Ontario Health and Safety Act, but much more needs to be done to stem the growing tide of workplace violence, says the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

"The amount of the penalty might seem like a lot but I have my doubts whether it will have the impact we need to see on reducing incidents of workplace violence," said OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

"Our members in the health care field are telling us that the problem is increasing. Will this conviction and penalty have the desired effect of reducing violence in the workplace? I remain doubtful until we begin to see solid evidence that employers and the Ministry of Labour recognize they have a real and serious problem on their hands."

The conviction and penalty against CAMH yesterday by Justice of the Peace Peter Gettlich in the Ontario Court of Justice was the result of charges against the Centre relating to a series of assaults on nursing personnel in November, 2007, and September, 2008.

In the first instance, CAMH pleaded guilty and was fined $35,000, under the OHSA, for its failure to ensure that security personnel had key access to the Secure Observation and Treatment Unit in the event of an emergency, according to a statement from the Ministry of Labour.

In the second incident CAMH pleaded guilty and was fined $35,000 for failing to provide written procedures on the use of personal alarms.

Despite the guilty pleas and fines, OPSEU regional vice president Nancy Pridham said workplace safety conditions inside CAMH have changed little since the assaults on health care workers.

"There have been some marginal improvements but overall conditions have scarcely changed since these horrific events of the past two years. Simply put, attitudes are slow to change on the part of the Employer and we still fall frighteningly short when it comes to full enforcement of the Ontario Health and Safety Act," said Pridham, who is also president of Local 500 at CAMH representing 1,700 workers.

OPSEU, along with other labour unions, has taken a forceful role in bringing the issue of workplace violence to the attention of the Ministry of Labour, the media and general public. It has participated in numerous public demonstrations against workplace violence and has been an active participant in advocating change to the OHSA.

Last year, more than 400 OPSEU members in the health care and community services sector participated in regional workshops aimed at educating and informing members of the risks of workplace violence and appropriate responses. One of the biggest shortcomings in addressing the problem is the failure of employers to actively participate in joint labour-management health and safety committees.

Contact Information

    Nancy Pridham
    OPSEU Region 5 Vice President
    416-407-4594 (cell)
    Greg Hamara
    OPSEU Communications
    647-238-9933 (cell)