Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay District Jail union president frustrated over new COVID-19 cases

The president of the union local representing staff at the Thunder Bay District Jail says the union is not being included in calls between the province, health unit, and management about the response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.

20 inmates, 9 staff positive for virus as of Monday

20 inmates and nine staff members at the Thunder Bay District Jail were confirmed positive with COVID-19 as of Monday. (Marc Doucette / CBC)

The president of the union local representing staff at the Thunder Bay District Jail says the union is not being included in calls between the province, health unit, and management about the response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.

"Public health is…offering some great advice," Bill Hayes, president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 737 said. "But they're not in the institution."

"The Thunder Bay jail is unlike anywhere else," he said. "And to really know it, you have to be working inside of it and you have to be there. And that goes for the employer, too, in the ministry of making decisions from Southern Ontario without actually seeing the place. You want to utilize all the resources you have to make the best decisions for the place."

Hayes said he's "not here to battle anybody," but said a union representative should be involved in the daily calls between the Thunder Bay District Health Unit, jail management, and the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General, as jail staff have information that can help with the response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the facility.

As of Monday, Hayes said there were 20 inmates and nine staff who were positive with COVID-19. Three additional staff were off work, as they were identified as close contacts of individuals who were positive with the virus.

The Ministry of the Solicitor General didn't respond by deadline on Monday to a CBC inquiry about future support they would be providing to the jail.

Hayes said the jail's inmate count was 84 on Monday. The facility is still required to admit new inmates despite the outbreak, as it's the only remand centre in the region.

"Two new positive cases just came came in the other day," he said. "So that's concerning, as well."

"It is in our community, and I just want to see an end to it, but right now it's very frustrating," Hayes said. "We don't see that resolve coming any time soon."

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