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Report confirms Saskatchewan’s deputy sheriff job cuts unsafe

OHS Division upheld 2 sheriffs' work refusals
REUTERS/Lyle Stafford

A report from Saskatchewan's Occupational Health and Safety Division confirms that contracting out court security is unsafe for workers and the public.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Justice replaced 14 deputy sheriffs with commissionaires. This left a single sheriff working with commissionaires at perimeter screening, instead of two armed sheriffs being assigned to that area, which was previously the case.

Following that change, two deputy sheriffs exercised their right to refuse dangerous work under the Saskatchewan Employment Act, saying their work had become unusually dangerous without having a second sheriff available. The sheriffs had been trained to work in pairs to handle dangerous situations, such as controlling aggressive individuals, and commissionaires don’t have the training or equipment to replace a sheriff in that role.

The employees’ refusal to work was upheld by the OH&S Division, which has issued a notice of contravention to the Ministry of Justice.

“This report confirms what we’ve been saying all along,” said Bob Bymoen, the president of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU). “Deputy sheriffs of court security are trained, screened, and equipped to very high standards. Replacing them with commissionaires compromises court security and the safety of workers — and the government’s OH&S division agrees.”

The Ministry of Justice said in a memo that while it reviews the OH&S Division report “staffing arrangements will remain as they currently are.”

SGEU is calling on the Ministry of Justice to immediately rehire all of the deputy sheriffs that it terminated.

“The Saskatchewan Party government’s attempt to save a few bucks by privatizing jobs has gone too far, causing unsafe working conditions and an unsafe environment in the courts,” said Bymoen. “Given this report, the Ministry of Justice should immediately rehire all the deputy sheriffs of court security who were terminated.”

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