February 18, 2000 Volume 7, Number 11


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Constables await report, as parking woes grow

As they wait for the Department of Labour’s Occupational Health and Safety report on their safety grievance, the U of S’s 27 security officers are holding firm in their more than three-week-long refusal to do many of their regular duties.

And Tony Whitworth, Vice-President of Finance and Resources, says that’s causing parking headaches for many faculty and staff.

Whitworth said Feb. 14, "It’s causing a lot of frustration for people. We’re now getting more of a problem with parking."

With virtually no parking enforcement for the past three weeks, people have been parking illegally in rented staff and faculty stalls.

Whitworth said if the situation isn’t resolved soon, "we’ll have to revisit the University’s response, to restore order to our parking situation."

U of S Constable Dave Prout said Feb. 14 "a lot of people have been very inconvenienced, because some people have taken advantage of the situation."

"As constables, we regret that," Prout said.

Security Services Acting Director Bob Ferguson said that as of Feb. 11 some University management have begun to enforce parking regulations again – particularly in parking stalls for disabled staff.

"We are taking [parking] complaints, and we have started to ticket," Ferguson said.

Whitworth, Prout and Ferguson all said there is some onus on the University to enforce parking, as part of the collective agreement between the U of S and Faculty.

All three also said they expect the Labour Department report on the officers’ safety complaint any day now.

Occupational Health and Safety officials met with University administrators early in the three-week period, and Prout said an investigator met with he and Constable Dave Welsh Feb. 10, for two hours of intensive discussions.

"It was a very good meeting; we’re very optimistic. I was left with a good feeling. He [th investigator] was very happy with what we do for training," Prout said.

Ferguson also said "we’re being led to believe it [the Labour Department report] will be favorable to our guys."

The 27 officers took job action Jan. 25, presenting management with a letter and holding a news conference saying they felt they needed to be able to carry pepper spray in order to feel safe in going about their duties on campus.

The pepper spray has been denied them by the provincial Justice Department, in an ongoing dispute in which aspects of the University constables’ two-year-old special status have been revoked by the province.

The constables were carrying batons and pepper spray until last July. Now they carry only the batons.

Prout said at the Jan. 25 news conference that there were four incidents on campus between Jan. 1 and 25 when officers dealt with somewhat hostile people and wanted to have their pepper spray available.

The constables argue they can’t do their duties safely until the pepper spray is returned to them.

They invoked their CUPE 1975 contract with the University and Sec. 23 of Saskatchewan’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, and are refusing to perform a list of 21 duties.

They won’t wear their uniforms, won’t drive the marked campus security cars, and won’t do a number of normal response to calls for help with security, noise or behavior control, or traffic and parking enforcement.

The officers have patrolled campus in unmarked cars and have continued to take initial calls for help, but they are referring a number of those calls on to city police.

Prout says city police have responded to some calls, and he knows of at least one case – a blaring security alarm – where the police refused to respond.

Prout said if the Labour Department’s report "comes out favorable to us, then it’s up to us and the University to decide what tools we need to do our jobs."

"If the Department of Labour rules it is unusually dangerous [work], then we can’t do our job without the tools we need," Prout said.

"If they rule it isn’t unusually dangerous, then we’ll go back to doing the job we were doing before," he said.

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