TORONTO, July 25, 2023 /CNW/ – Workers in correctional institutions, probation and parole offices and youth justice facilities across Ontario are wearing the word “Respect” at work today, marking their anger at the Ontario government’s refusal to engage in meaningful bargaining. Correctional workers have been without a contract since December 31, 2021.
Today (July 25) would have been the date for final, binding arbitration. Despite the date being set nine months ago, Ministry officials announced two weeks ago that they are not ready to proceed to arbitration. As a result, arbitration has been delayed until the next available set of dates in November 2023.
“This is shameful behaviour at a bargaining table,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick. “The employer showed up to two mediation dates in April and July completely unprepared, with no proposals. Now they’re stalling arbitration for months. These tactics show this government’s complete lack of respect for correctional and youth justice workers, and lack of regard for safety in Ontario’s correctional institutions.”
Comparatively lower wages and benefits and terrible working conditions have created an understaffing crisis in corrections and youth justice settings, resulting in unsafe conditions for both staff and clients. Without adequate staffing levels, correctional workers struggle to provide the necessary care and rehabilitative programming for those in custody, and supervision for people on probation and parole in the community.
“Our members are angry, and workplaces are reaching the boiling point,” said Janet Laverty, chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Correctional Bargaining Team. “Showing up empty-handed and stalling the bargaining process is the biggest act of disrespect this government could pull. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and resources.”
“We have a serious pay and benefit gap compared to other public safety organizations,” added Laverty. “But instead of coming to the table and bargaining fair compensation with us to fix their recruitment and retention problem, they’re paying exorbitant amounts of money to private, for-profit temp agencies, to fill the gaps. It’s a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.”
OPSEU/SEFPO’s Correctional Bargaining Unit members are employed by two Ontario government ministries: The Ministry of the Solicitor General (Corrections), and the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (Youth Justice). Understaffing has reached crisis proportions for positions across corrections and youth justice, including correctional officers, youth services officers, probation officers, nurses, clinical staff, programming staff, administrative staff, maintenance staff and other ancillary services.
“This government always says they have our backs, that public safety is their number one priority,” said Laverty. “If so, then they need to show up in November ready to complete the arbitration process. Correctional and youth justice workers deserve to be fairly compensated for the work we do.”
SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO)