Ont. prison guard strike could put prisoners' rights 'in peril'

A union representing Ontario's correctional workers is threatening job action and a criminology and corrections expert says if there was a strike it could put prisoners' rights "in peril" and may leave managers at risk.

See Full Article

A strike could see prisoners locked in their cells without access to communal spaces, classes or potentially doctor's appointments, said Kelly Hannah-Moffat, director of the Centre of Criminology and Socio-legal Studies at the University of Toronto.

Earlier this month, members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) rejected a tentative agreement with the province. Followup negotiations failed on Friday prompting the union to ask for a "no board report," meaning a conciliator concludes the two sides aren't ready to agree on a contract. The correctional and probation officers would be in a legal strike position within 17 days of such a report being issued.

Representatives from the Treasury Board and the correctional services ministry did not comment on the union's request for a "no board report." The government issued a news release only saying it was ready to head back to the bargaining table at any time, but declined to answer further questions.

If the union made good on its threat to walk out, managers at the province's 28 correctional facilities, detention centres and jails would take over the guards' work, sending many of those institutions into lockdown, said OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

Thomas noted that it would be within the government's authority to order guards back to work, but "there would be consequences" if they did that, he did not elaborate.

Other unionized workers like nurses and maintenance staff would have to continue working during any strike, but Hannah-Moffat said the ratio of staff to employees would become much worse.

"People 1/8would 3/8 be attempting to issue medication and to maintain safety and security in the institution, but because you have a whole segment of people who are not working ... it would be very difficult to move people around the institution in the way they normally would," she said, adding that appointments with psychologists and educational programs may have to be cancelled.

"It puts the rights of individuals in peril, in that they won't be able to access regular services or programming," she said.

She added that managers, who would take over guards' roles in the event of a strike, could also be put at risk.

"You're going to have people doing jobs that they're not necessarily accustomed to doing," she said. "In extreme circumstances, there could be increased risk of incidents occurring, especially if you can't support people in crisis."

The union says the threat of strike is necessary.

Thomas said the workers are concerned about overcrowding and under-staffing in jails. He said those conditions led to an officer in the Thunder Bay jail being taken hostage by prisoners earlier this month.

The officer was taken hostage after a group of prisoners took control over a portion of the jail, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services said. They confirmed that the officer and three prisoners were taken to hospital with injuries following the incident, which they called "shocking".

"I'm just stumped as to what it would take for the government to realize they have a problem," Thomas said.

"The vast majority of my members don't want to strike, but I'll tell you now, they will," he added. "And that clock has started tickin'."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Nunavut's only humane society to be demolished

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Canada’s northernmost humane society is set to be demolished next year, and the organization is rushing to raise $1 million in hopes of building a new facility to serve all of Nunavut. The Iqaluit Humane Society has been around for 13 years and re-homes up to 700 pets every year, often to other parts of Canada. Source
  • She fought to give hijabs a place in basketball. Now she's training Muslim girls in London, Ont.

    Canada News CBC News
    For Muslim girls who love basketball, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir is arguably the biggest trailblazer. "I kind of sacrificed my career for the greater good," said Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir. "I still miss basketball very much, but I see the fruits of my sacrifice now. Source
  • Ontario records more than 900 new COVID-19 cases, positivity rate at 2.6 per cent

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ontario is reporting more than 900 new cases of COVID-19, a single-day increase after several days of case numbers in the 800s. The 936 new infections reported Thursday represent an increase over Wednesday’s total when officials reported 834 new cases and Tuesday’s total when officials reported 827 new cases. Source
  • Former British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn suspended by his party

    World News CBC News
    Britain's opposition Labour Party suspended its former leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday for seeking to deflect blame away from himself after a report found that under his leadership the party was responsible for unlawful harassment and discrimination. Source
  • Polish president takes step back on abortion amid protests

    World News CTV News
    WARSAW, POLAND -- Polish President Andrzej Duda partially broke ranks with the country's conservative leadership Thursday and said he thinks women should have the right to abortion when they are carrying fetuses with fatal birth defects. Source
  • Thailand protesters take to street to mock fashion show

    World News CTV News
    BANGKOK -- Pro-democracy demonstrators in Thailand returned Thursday to the capital's business district, staging something akin to a street fair to bring attention to their contention that the country's monarchy holds too much power and influence. Source
  • Jared Kushner bragged in April that Trump was taking the country 'back from the doctors'

    World News CTV News
    U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, boasted in mid-April about how the president had cut out the doctors and scientists advising him on the unfolding coronavirus pandemic, comments that came as more than 40,000 Americans already had died from the virus, which was ravaging New York City. Source
  • Judge says Texas mask mandate must extend to polling places

    World News CTV News
    AUSTIN, TEXAS -- A federal judge ruled that Texas' statewide mask mandate must include polling places, but election officials Wednesday did not rush to enforce the order that was handed down after more than 8 million people have already voted. Source
  • Trudeau, EU leaders meet ahead of U.S. election to reinforce support of world order

    World News CBC News
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is speaking with the European Union's two top political leaders Thursday, and they are expected to discuss their shared commitment to international co-operation and what that means ahead of Tuesday's U.S presidential election. Source
  • Virus arrives in once-clear Marshall Islands

    World News CTV News
    Full coverage at CTVNews.ca/Coronavirus Tracking every case of COVID-19 in Canada Canada expecting uptick in excess deaths amid COVID-19: StatCan Source