Staff with Victoria’s parks and recreation department have exercised their right to refuse work after two parks employees were threatened in Beacon Hill Park this week, the City of Victoria has confirmed.
According to the city on Tuesday, July 21, two Parks employees were confronted in Beacon Hill Park by someone who made threatening remarks about harming them and members of the public.
The employees moved to a different location and called 911.
The city said since then, a group of Parks staff have exercised their right to refuse certain work duties.
The City of Victoria says it is working with the union (CUPE Local 50) to support staff and “ensure their working rights are respected.”
The city said it is conducting an investigation and until that is complete, staff will be limiting their work in Beacon Hill Park to only garbage pickups and washroom cleaning to mitigate impacts for the public.
The Parks yard off Cook Street is still operational and staff there will continue to work.
The city said in a statement that incidents where staff encounter aggressive public do happen from time to time. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased these occurrences as a higher volume of individuals are sheltering in parks. According to the city, it has been using a using a Hazard Risk Assessment that outlines controls intended to keep workers safe, which is reviewed and updated weekly.
“We are in extraordinary times. We cannot forget that the pandemic is still with us and is presenting challenges for us all. No matter the circumstances we’re in, everyone deserves to feel safe in their workplace. I was disheartened when I learned that Parks staff have recently been the subject of verbal abuse and threats,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
“Our staff are highly trained and we are so proud of the commitment they’ve demonstrated under challenging circumstances to follow new safety protocols to keep themselves and their co-workers safe. I want to express my deep gratitude for the service of our Parks staff – they continue to do exceptional work in difficult circumstances and make us proud during these unprecedented times.
“The city continues to advocate for more investment in housing and mental health supports from the provincial and federal government agencies responsible for these urgent community priorities.”
Earlier this month, Victoria police said calls to police for service in the Beacon Hill Park area have increased this year compared to this time in 2019.