Coronavirus: Ontario jail guards battle with province over use of protective gear

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The union representing correctional officers in Ontario says some of its members have refused to work after they were not allowed to wear protective gear amid the spread of COVID-19 in provincial jails.

Some institutions allow guards to wear surgical masks and gloves while others don’t, said Chris Jackel, a spokesman for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

Last week, guards at Monteith Correctional Complex near Timmins, Ont., refused to work after they asked, but weren’t allowed to wear the protective equipment near an inmate who started showing symptoms of COVID-19, said Jackel.

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“Then the (inmate’s) test results come in positive and they say, sure, you can wear PPE (personal protective equipment),” Jackel said. “It’s so ridiculous, we don’t understand.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Solicitor General said jails across the province have access to protective equipment, adding that the health of its workers and inmates is a “top priority.”

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“The ministry is currently working with bargaining partners to address outstanding matters, such as the use of personal masks,” said Kristy Denette.

As of April 6, three inmates had tested positive for COVID-19,

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