On Friday, one hundred corrections officers held a demonstration in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Montreal office to demand a “COVID bonus,” claiming the pandemic had worsened their working conditions for over a year.
“The morale is very low. Like the general public, there is COVID fatigue, exacerbated by the explosive ecosystem in which it lives. There are agents who have worked very hard from the very beginning. At Laval, we lost almost three quarters of our employees, it was so difficult, ”says Frederic Lebeau, president of the Quebec Union of Corrections of Canada (SACC-CSN).
He says its members are “tired” of “playing ping-pong” with the federal government, which has so far refused to promote the payment of a “COVID bonus” for correctional officers. “When we look at what was given to the military at CHSLD, Quebec and Ontario, we tell ourselves we deserve the same. We want to start real discussions, ”insists Mr. Lebeau.
In the morning, a large 30-by-20-foot banner was raised in front of Mr. Trudeau’s office. “Premium COVID. Correctional staff are still waiting, ”the message says.
At the moment, the union says it has referred its demands to the offices of Public Security Minister Bill Blair and Treasury Council President Jean-Yves Duclos. “Every time they say thanks to us, they say that first we have to discuss this. But there has been no progress since the first wave. It’s time to act. The government must fulfill its responsibilities, ”the union leader criticizes.
This bonus would be a recognition of the hard work that has been done in all of our institutions from the very beginning. It’s minimum.
Frederic Lebeau, President of SACC-CSN, Quebec Section
Several cases of COVID-19 outbreaks have made headlines in Quebec’s federal and provincial prisons in recent months. In particular, in April, a new outbreak hit the Saint-Jerome facility in the Montreal suburbs, which had already been affected by the transmission wave in January. At least five police officers tested positive this week, and ten more had to be placed in administrative isolation as a massive check was organized to contain the spread of the virus.
In January, Click on reported that a slogan had been circulated among some of Saint-Jerome’s inmates not to warn the authorities if one of them developed symptoms of COVID-19, in order to avoid isolation in a cell for 14 days.
Other sources of contamination were also discovered last year at a plant in Montreal, Bordeaux. During the first wave, the outbreak affected 80 inmates of this institution. Cases have also been identified in Halle, Trois-Rivieres or Perce, to name just a few.
Mathieu Lavoie, president of the Union of Peacekeepers in Correctional Services (SAPSCQ-CSN), believes the number of retirements or layoffs has “skyrocketed” over the past year. This counts over 400 job openings in the Quebec network. “To this we can add a sick or an accident at work. This is a lot, ”he said this spring.
Called to respond, Secretary Bill Blair’s office and the Federal Department of Public Safety have not responded to our questions at the time of this writing.