Province blows millions on strike prep but ignores crisis in Corrections: OPSEU

All of that money would be better used to reduce overcrowding, reduce understaffing, and help the thousands of offenders who have serious mental health and addictions issues.” — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President

Toronto (07 Jan. 2016) — The government of Ontario is wasting millions of public dollars on strike preparation that it should be spending to ease the crisis in correctional services, the President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) says.

Ontario government spending more money on strike prep than on finding solutions to problems in corrections

“When it comes to getting ready for a strike in Corrections, money is no object for this government,” Warren (Smokey) Thomas said. “My members who work in the jails are seeing millions spent on housing, food, and big-screen TVs for the assorted managers and scabs who will try to run these institutions in the event of a work stoppage."

“All of that money would be better used to avoid a strike,” he said. “All of that money would be better used to reduce overcrowding, reduce understaffing, and help the thousands of offenders who have serious mental health and addictions issues.”

Government refuses to address safety issues and negotiate a fair deal

Thomas laid blame for the waste on Treasury Board President Deb Matthews, who has insisted that all provincial employees accept less to pay off the Liberal government’s budget deficit.

“If I had to guess what Matthews is spending to get ready for a strike, plus what she is willing to pay for extra scab wages and overtime, I’d say it would add up to $50 million,” he said. “If she has that kind of money to fight her own front-line staff, she can afford to treat them fairly and make it safer for them to go into work every day.”

Untrained replacement workers paid overtime at double time-and-a-half and can violate safety policies during strike

Replacement workers in the province’s jails will be paid overtime at double-time-and-a-half and allowed to violate safety policies in the event of a work stoppage by frontline correctional staff, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union has learned.

According to a document obtained by the Ottawa Citizen, the government will let managers, many of whom are from outside of correctional services, bring laptops, DVDs, and cell phones into jails across the province. Under current safety policy, correctional staff are not permitted to use any electronics while on the job.

“In an effort to appease untrained replacement managers, the government is ignoring its own safety policies,” OPSEU Local 617 President Nathan Aubin said in Sudbury. “The millions of public dollars they are ready to spend on overtime is appalling when you look at the shape of these decrepit old jails. That money needs to be spent on getting the buildings up to par to ensure the safety of staff and inmates.”

OPSEU represents some 6,000 front-line correctional staff in institutions and probation offices across the province. They will be in a legal strike or lockout position at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, January 10.

NUPGE 

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 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

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