Ontario's Corrections Ministry prepares for strike months prior to negotiations | National Union of Public and General Employees

Ontario's Corrections Ministry prepares for strike months prior to negotiations

Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) reports that many correctional facilities are constructing housing accommodations for the sole purpose of providing temporary living quarters for managers who would be required to stay at the facilities in the event of a labour dispute. 

Toronto (09 Apr. 2014) — The union representing Ontario’s front-line correctional officers says that it appears the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) is gearing up for a strike in "significant fashion" despite the fact that they are months away from contract negotiations.

Ministry being secretive about "building improvements"

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) reports that many correctional facilities are constructing housing accommodations for the sole purpose of providing temporary living quarters for managers who would be required to stay at the facilities in the event of a labour dispute. The Ministry is being secretive about these so-called building improvements, taking extreme measures to ensure that unionized staff are denied access to these areas.

The following correctional facilities have all confirmed that they have undergone, or are undergoing, significant construction:

  • Sudbury Jail
  • Central North Correctional Centre
  • Niagara Detention Centre
  • Algoma Treatment and Remand Centre
  • Monteith Correctional Centre
  • Thunder Bay Jail
  • Kenora Jail
  • Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre
  • Central East Correctional Centre
  • Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre
  • Maplehurst Correctional Centre and Vanier Centre for Women

Many other facilities are reporting that construction is pending. None of this construction will be used for additional staff space or an increase to inmate beds.

Ministry refusing to bargain in good faith?

Dan Sidsworth, the elected representative for correctional members, says that it appears the Ministry has already decided it won’t negotiate in good faith when bargaining begins. “The current collective agreement is not due to expire until the end of December 2014,” Sidsworth said. “This can only mean one thing: The Ministry’s intent is to 'draw a line in the sand' and lock out correctional officers before it even knows what issues are on the bargaining table.”

Chris Jackel, President of OPSEU Local 369 at Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, said that after the 2002 strike the managers’ biggest complaint was the poor living conditions they had to endure. “It seems as though the government is doing something about it this time," he said.

Priority should be improving facilities not preparing for a strike

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said the Ministry should be spending money on increasing the number of inmate beds, and improving working conditions in the facilities, instead of spending money preparing for a dispute. “The cost of the managers’ strike accommodations is estimated to be over $500K,” Thomas said. “If they took that money and invested it in their front-line staff and facilities, it would go a long way in ensuring there weren’t any future labour disputes.”

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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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