B.C. sheriff services staffing level at critical low | National Union of Public and General Employees

B.C. sheriff services staffing level at critical low

Correctional officers will be called upon to help deal with demands for increased security at provincial courts in the coming months.

Vancouver (19 Jan. 2011) - The British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) says there are too few sheriffs in the province to handle demands arising from upcoming high security trials.

After learning that requirements for court security will increase in the coming months, the union has informed the province "in the strongest possible way" that more sheriffs must be hired immediately to deal with the situation.

"Staffing shortages in sheriff services have been ongoing and the employer should have managed their requirements in anticipation of the current staff shortage crisis," BCGEU says.

"The union also advised the employer we were not interested in negotiating a memorandum that would simply 'bail them out' for their mismanagement of staffing shortfalls in sheriff services."

BCGEU was advised on Jan. 15 that several procedures will be implemented to deal with the new demands for increased court security. They include:

  • Offering overtime to deputy sheriffs working in the same geographical location as the court house in which the trial is taking place.
  • Offering overtime to additional sheriffs who live close enough to the trial to return home at night.
  • Offering shifts and overtime to correctional officers living in the area of the relevant court house.
  • Offering shifts and overtime to other correctional officers close enough to return home at night.

"Correctional Officers will only be assigned work for which they are qualified," BCGEU reports.

"They will not, for example, be assigned work which requires them to be armed (i.e. escorts). These correctional officers will undergo an orientation to deputy sheriff duties and will be appointed as deputy sheriffs for the purpose of this assignment."

BCGEU says correctional officers will be "compensated at their substantive rate of pay" and overtime will be calculated according to master and component collective agreements.

"The union is not happy with the use of correctional officers to solve the staffing shortfall crisis in sheriff services," it adds.

"The Court Services Branch (CSB) has known about the impending staffing crunch for the last two years but did nothing. We have continuously advised the employer that they have a recruitment and retention and morale problem within Sheriff Services and these types of situations only exacerbates the situation and does not solve the fundamental problem of short staffing."

The employer has told the union the situation is unusual and should be considered an anomaly and that everything possible will be done to minimize the use of the alternative measures.

"The union will carefully monitor this issue to ensure full compliance with the master and component agreements and continue to meet with the ministry about the critical staffing shortage in sheriff services," BCGEU says.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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