Strike in store for Ontario jails?

Ministry preparing for labour dispute ahead of negotiations: Union

Months before the Ontario government and its correctional officers sit down at the bargaining table, the union warns of the possibility of a strike.

According to the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is gearing up for a strike. This was evidenced by reports from the union that many jails are constructing housing accommodations for the sole purpose of providing temporary living quarters for managers who would be required to stay at the facilities in the event of a labour dispute.

The alleged actions signal to the union that the ministry won’t negotiate in good faith when collective bargaining begins, opined Dan Sidsworth, OPSEU’s representative for correctional officers.

“The current collective agreement is not due to expire until the end of December 2014. This can only mean one thing – the ministry’s intent is to draw a line in the sand and lock out correctional officers before it even knows what issues are on the bargaining table,” Sidsworth said.

The ministry has not said what the new construction projects will be used for.

President of OPSEU, Warren “Smokey” Thomas, said the ministry should be investing in beds for inmates and improving working conditions in the facilities.

“The cost of the managers’ strike accommodations is estimated to be more than $500,000,” Thomas said. “If they took that money and invested it in their front-line staff and facilities, it would go a long way in ensuring there weren’t any future labour disputes.”

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