Ontario jail guards, government hold talks ahead of potential strike

Ontario’s 6,000 jail guards and probation officers are threatening they could walk off the job Sunday morning to protest what they say are unsafe working conditions and unfair wages.

See Full Article

But the deputy premier is warning that the province will take the steps “to address such misconduct.”

The jail workers are members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and have been without a contract since December, 2014. They will be in a legal strike position at 12:01 Sunday morning. If they walk off the job, managers from across the public service will be brought in to run jails and probation services.

Union negotiators returned to a Toronto hotel Friday morning in a last-ditch effort to try to hammer out a deal with the government. Tom O'Neill, the head of OPSEU’s corrections bargaining team, says they will keep talking past Friday if progress is made, but they are still going ahead with plans in the event they have to walk out.

OPSEU President Warren “Smokey” Thomas says he's concerned that the managers won't be able to handle the job within jails and ensure the safety of other staff there.

“Inside jails, I fear for safety of my members, I fear for safety of inmates who have mental health issues, many of whom are defenceless,” Thomas told CTV Toronto Friday morning.

The union said in a recent statement that the managers have not had enough training to take over, and “are in no way qualified to supervise the shrewd and violent criminals incarcerated in Ontario's jails.”

The union is also angry that replacement parole workers would be paid overtime at time-and-a-half and correctional facility workers would be paid double-time-and-a-half during any work stoppage.

If probation and parole officers walk off the job, Thomas said there could also be a risk to communities because parolees will fall through the cracks without proper supervision.

The union says Ontario probation and parole officers handle the highest caseloads in the country, and yet spending per offender is the second-lowest. Lethal weapons are regularly brought into parole offices, they say, but the government refuses to install metal detectors.

Thomas maintains there is a crisis in corrections and Ontario’s Treasury Board President Deb Matthews should come see what it’s like.

“If she could see first-hand conditions in jail, I’m quite convinced she’d have a change of heart because once you see it, I don’t believe anyone on this planet could be that heartless that you wouldn’t want to try to do something for these people,” he said.

Beyond the issue of safety conditions, jail workers also want to be deemed an essential service. That would mean their pay would rise with police and firefighters in binding arbitration, but would also mean they lose their right to strike.

Compensation is also an issue. Union members are angry that the province spent $58 million last year to top up managers' salaries, which had been frozen for years, but said there was no new money for wage increases for union members.

The last time the province's jail guards went on strike was in 2002. That work stoppage lasted 54 days, and there were riots at a number of correctional centres that resulted in broken windows and fires.

Thomas has said he has advised jail nurses, maintenance crews and kitchen staff -- who are covered under a different contract -- to not go into work if they feel unsafe.

In response, Matthews sent a letter back to the union saying that unified bargaining unit members, "are required to report to work and perform their duties in accordance with the terms and conditions of their employment during a labour disruption."

She added that the government "will take the steps necessary to address such misconduct" if workers don't show up for work, and they will address safety concerns through the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

But with the clock ticking on bargaining talks, the government has been making plans for a walkout by setting up trailers for manager to use as makeshift living quarters if they have to take over. As well, some managers have been clearing out offices and turning them into bedrooms.

With reports from CTV Toronto’s Naomi Parness and files from The Canadian Press



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Conservative leader's free speech pledge wouldn't apply in U of T nationalist rally case

    Canada News CBC News
    A pledge by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to yank federal funding from universities that fail to uphold free speech wouldn't apply to a decision by the University of Toronto to ban a nationalist rally from campus, his spokesman said Wednesday. Source
  • Fugitive heir's trail exposes Red Bull co-owners' offshore deals

    World News CTV News
    The Bangkok billionaire family that co-founded Red Bull, the world's leading energy drink, uses offshore companies to cloak purchases of jets and luxury properties, including the posh London home where the clan's fugitive son was last seen. Source
  • Hong Kong democracy activist braces for possible prison sentence

    World News CTV News
    HONG KONG - Young Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong and two other student leaders of huge pro-democracy protests in 2014 braced for a court decision Thursday that could send them to prison. The three-judge panel is due to issue its ruling on a prosecution request for stiffer sentences following a lower court decision that let them avoid prison. Source
  • 'Our great love story': Couple talks arranged marriage

    World News CTV News
    ST. PAUL, Minn. -- David and Elizabeth Weinlick’s life together began like a reality TV show, blossomed into two decades out of a romance novel, and now seems destined to end in tragedy. David Weinlick and Elizabeth Runze were strangers when they said "I do" in front of thousands of shoppers and in the national spotlight at Minnesota’s Mall of America in June 1998. Source
  • Raspberry mousse cakes sold in multiple provinces recalled by CFIA for norovirus

    Canada News CBC News
    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is recalling a number of raspberry mousse cakes after it was discovered the desserts contained norovirus. The agency issued an expanded recallon Wednesday, specifying the products have been distributed in B.C. Source
  • South Korea looks to jumpstart diplomacy in North Korea standoff

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - In an effort to jumpstart diplomacy, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday he would consider sending a special envoy to North Korea for talks if the North stops its missile and nuclear tests. Source
  • Driver of Texas trailer indicted for 10 passengers’ deaths

    World News Toronto Sun
    SAN ANTONIO — The driver of a tractor-trailer packed with people illegally entering the United States in an alleged human smuggling operation was indicted Wednesday on charges related to the deaths of 10 people inside. James Matthew Bradley Jr. Source
  • 'They tried to kill my child to shut her up'; Woman hit, killed by car at Virginia rally mourned [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Mourners will gather in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Wednesday to honour the woman who was killed when a car rammed into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally that descended into violence last weekend. Source
  • 3 kids killed in crash northeast of Calgary, 3 others injured

    Canada News CBC News
    Three children are dead and three others are injured after a semi truck and a van collided near Highway 36 and Highway 570 in Calgary on Wednesday around 5:45 p.m. One infant, one male teenager and one female teenager were killed on scene, said Calgary EMS. Source
  • Suspected car thief perched on L.A. harbour crane

    World News Toronto Sun
    LOS ANGELES — A man who led authorities on a chase in a stolen car is perched on the arm of a loading crane at the Port of Los Angeles. Police say an SUV reported stolen from a dealership in San Bernardino was spotted in Los Angeles shortly after 3 p.m. Source