TORONTO, Nov. 15, 2017 /CNW/ - Ontario correctional services staff began negotiations this morning for their stand-alone collective agreement with the Ontario government. Addressing the ongoing "crisis in corrections" is a top priority in the talks, the bargaining team for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) says.
"Our jails and probation and parole offices are chronically understaffed and unsafe," said OPSEU bargaining team chair Chris Jackel. "They're severely under-resourced. Our institutions are bulging at the seams. Workers are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder at levels far above other first responders. Correctional health care workers struggle to care for an aging population with skyrocketing rates of mental health and addictions issues."
Bargaining team member Scott McIntyre said the crisis had also gripped probation and parole.
"Workloads are dangerously high and staffing levels are critically low. A refusal to install metal detectors in probation and parole offices has put officer safety in peril. Compliance checks, such as house arrest and curfew checks, have been suspended. Shocking numbers of offenders breach their orders. The whereabouts of thousands of offenders are unknown – and they're not being sought.
"All of these things seriously jeopardize the safety of our communities."
Jackel underscored that compensation would be a crucial part of negotiations. "In 2016, a provincial arbitrator said Ontario correctional officers' wages were significantly lower than their counterparts in the other provinces and at the federal level. That must be corrected."
In negotiations in 2016, the province agreed to create a stand-alone bargaining unit for some 9,300 correctional workers in the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, as well as the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, which has responsibility for young offenders. In June 2017, members voted down a tentative deal to extend the collective agreement, setting the stage for the current round.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas expressed confidence in the OPSEU team's negotiating abilities. "They're bringing the same professionalism and dedication to bargaining that they bring to their jobs every day. I know they'll use every ounce of energy to deliver an excellent stand-alone collective agreement to the Corrections unit."
SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)
For further information: Chris Jackel, 1-800-268-7376, ext. 7415