Federal prison guards want complete smoking ban

Union seeking labour minister’s leave to sue employer

The union representing 6,000 federal prison guards wants to sue Correctional Service Canada (CSC) for a smoke-free workplace.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers says prisoners continue to light up in their cells, despite a year-long ban on indoor smoking.

“We have worked with CSC for years on ways to ensure that the health of our members is not endangered by second-hand smoke," said union president Sylvain Martel in a statement.

“And yet, correctional officers continue to inhale smoke on every shift, every day, in almost every institution across Canada. We can no longer tolerate this, especially considering the threat to our lives we already face in our jobs.”

The union is seeking leave from Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn to launch a lawsuit against CSC to enforce a health-and-safety ruling.

The request is based on the exposure to second-hand smoke by correctional officers at Millhaven Institution, near Kingston, Ont.

After an investigation, a health and safety officer has ordered CSC to “take measures to correct the hazard” no later than Dec. 9, 2006. The union said the prison has refused to comply with this order.

Martel rejected CSC’s suggestion that guards wear respirators to protect themselves. Instead, the union wants a complete ban on tobacco products inside the walls of the penitentiaries.

Currently, inmates are allowed to smoke in open-air exercise yards and to keep tobacco in their cells. According to CSC figures, about 70 to 80 per cent of federal inmates are smokers.

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