'We have been asking for these changes for decades.... We hope the government carries through.' - SGEU president Bob Bymoen.
Regina (13 March 2009) - The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU/NUPGE) welcomes a promise by the province to increase resources, staff training and security measures in the correctional system as a response to the high-profile inmate escape from the Regina Correctional Centre last August.
"We have been asking for these changes for decades. Our front-line staff have identified issues such as inadequate training, sub-standard infrastructure and information systems as key problems for many years," says SGEU president Bob Bymoen.
"We hope the government carries through with the promise to increase funding and resources, and makes the necessary policy changes needed to create real improvements."
Bymoen noted that many of the same recommendations, such as enhanced training, were made in the 1993 Rankin report but were not acted upon.
"While many of the recommendations in this report respond to what front-line workers have been asking for over the years, we are disappointed that the report identifies a strong union presence in the correctional centre as a problem, says Bymoen.
"The allegation is that management is hampered by the union. But, as everyone involved in industrial relations knows, management has the right to manage. In the absence of clear direction and leadership, front-line staff often turned to the union to help address concerns," he adds. "It is unacceptable to attempt to offload the blame for these problems on staff. Management has the responsibility to manage."
Important issue of scope
The report also recommends changes to the rules governing who is in and out of the scope of the union, which is inappropriate and does not fall under the mandate of the investigation, adds Bymoen.
The increased beds announced for corrections in Saskatoon are long-overdue and welcome.
"But it is worth noting that, while this will help alleviate pressures in the men's system, it does not help solve the overcrowding problem in Pinegrove, the correctional centre for women in Prince Albert," Bymoen notes.
He adds that many of the problems with inmate management result from the fact that there is very little positive, rehabilitative programming left in the system.
"Programs were cut in a short-sighted effort to save money over the last two decades. With little to fill their time inmates are more likely to engage in dangerous activities that have serious consequences for themselves and staff," he says.
"We are paying for the cuts in programming and infrastructure made in the 1990s. It is a clear demonstration that cutting back on public services to save a few dollars today has far more serious and costly repercussions down the road."
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