LONDON - Ontario correctional staff are in a fight for their lives in the current round of contract talks with the Ontario government, their union says.
Correctional officers, probation and parole officers and other correctional staff in the Ontario Public Service Employees Union will rally tomorrow in front of the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre to call for public support in their struggle for safer workplaces and related improvements.
Date: January 25, 2002
Time: 11:30 a.m.
Location: Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre 711 Exeter Road, London
“The job of a corrections worker has never been more stressful or more dangerous,” said Jack Hopkins, Regional Representative of the OPSEU Corrections Bargaining Team. “Violent assaults on correctional officers are at their highest level ever. Caseloads for probation and parole officers are the highest in Canada. This round of bargaining may be our last
chance to put in place the safeguards that will save our lives.”
Under government restructuring, jail overcrowding has increased while jail programming has been cut to the bone. The number of assaults, suicides, and riots has risen sharply as a result. Overworked probation and parole officers, who monitor over 70,000 offenders in the community, have time to meet with offenders for just 30 minutes per month on average.
“You can only handle this kind of pressure-cooker environment for so long, and a lot of our staff are long past the point of burnout,” said Hopkins. “This is bad for us, and it’s bad for the public, whose safety is also put at risk. We’re saying ‘Enough is Enough.’”
The corrections bargaining team has yet to table a wage demand with the government. “All the money in the world doesn’t do you any good if you aren’t alive at the end of your shift,” Hopkins said.
Other key issues for corrections workers include more stability for workers who are currently on short-term contracts, and better early retirement options.
OPSEU’s contract for 45,000 Ontario Public Service employees, including 6,000 in the Corrections Category, expired Dec. 31, 2001.
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For more information: Jack Hopkins (519) 525-6020
Corrections Bargaining Backgrounder