05/28/2013 05:42 EDT | Updated 07/28/2013 05:12 EDT

OPSEU demands apology from Meilleur over remarks about correctional officers

TORONTO - The president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union is demanding an apology from Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur.

Smokey Thomas says he's infuriated that Meilleur would try to blame correctional staff for a rash of assaults on employees over the past three days at London's Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre.

In response to questions in the legislature Tuesday from Tory Jeff Yurek, Meilleur said she wanted to know who was "not doing his job" when drugs or knives were smuggled into the facility.

Thomas says the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre has a long and documented history of dangerous overcrowding and understaffing.

And Thomas says things have only gotten worse since officials put a plan in place to fix the facility.

Meilleur told the legislature the ministry's best manager has been sent to Elgin-Middlesex and is working hard with the facility's management and the union to improve the situation.

Thomas said Meilleur should do the right thing and immediately apologize for her statements.

"Anything less is a slap in the face to the officers and everything they risk to do their jobs protecting the people of Ontario," Thomas said.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Meilleur said she realizes correctional officers have extremely difficult jobs, and she takes their health and safety concerns "very seriously."

"I share the concerns and frustrations of the correctional officers; nobody wants weapons or any other contraband entering the institution, and we need to work together to decrease violence and ensure a positive working relationship," she said.