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

  • White House officials to kick off big Trump impeachment week

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Two top national security aides who listened to U.S. President Donald Trump's call with Ukraine are preparing to testify in the impeachment hearings, launching a week of back-to-back sessions as Americans hear from those closest to the White House. Source
  • Chilean leader acknowledges excess force used in protests

    World News CTV News
    SANTIAGO, Chile -- Chile's president is struggling to bring calm as demonstrators took to the streets again Monday, a month into a potent protest movement that has dramatically altered the political landscape of the South American nation. Source
  • Deadly attack leaves California Hmong community in shock

    World News CTV News
    FRESNO, Calif. -- A close-knit Hmong community was in shock after gunmen burst into a California backyard gathering and shot 10 men, killing four. "We are right now just trying to figure out what to do, what are the next steps. Source
  • U.S. prison system long plagued by staffing crisis, violence

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- For years, the federal Bureau of Prisons has been plagued by systematic failures, from massive staffing shortages to chronic violence. But the largest agency in the Justice Department has largely stayed out of the public view. Source
  • Student protesters hold out as Hong Kong leader urges peaceful resolution

    World News CBC News
    Hong Kong's embattled leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday she hoped a standoff between police and a hold-out group of anti-government protesters at a university could be resolved and she had told police to handle it in a humane way. Source
  • Prince Charles meets New Zealand leader, public

    World News CTV News
    WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Prince Charles met with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday and later joined wife Camilla to greet people along the Auckland waterfront. The heir apparent to the British throne and the Duchess of Cornwall were on the third day of a weeklong trip to New Zealand. Source
  • 15 killed, 9 injured in northern China coal mine explosion

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - Authorities in northern China say 15 people were killed and nine injured in a gas explosion inside a coal mine. The blast occurred Monday afternoon, and rescue work was halted early Tuesday morning after everyone was accounted for. Source
  • Judge rebuffs Trump's bid to delay woman's defamation suit

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- U.S. President Donald Trump lost his latest bid Monday to delay a former "Apprentice" contestant's defamation suit as he faces a Jan. 31 deadline to undergo pretrial questioning in the case, which involves claims of unwanted kissing and groping. Source
  • Thousands of CN Rail employees head on strike, but talks continue

    Canada News CBC News
    About 3,200 Canadian National Railway conductors, trainpersons and yard workers are on strike after the union and company failed to reach a deal by the midnight ET deadline. The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, the union representing the employees, gave the required 72-hour strike notice on the weekend. Source
  • Doctor says Trump's trip to medical centre was 'routine'

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Donald Trump's physician says the president's unscheduled weekend visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center was "for a routine, planned interim checkup." Navy Cdr. Sean Conley, physician to the president, says Trump "has not had any chest pain, nor was he evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues. Source