June 1, 2001
Skunk arrives at the picnic
On Thursday, May 31, the loss of safe and accountable
correctional services in Ontario became a reality as the keys to the Central
North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene were handed over to Management and
Training Corporation (MTC).
A closed press tour gave reporters a chance to view the
facility as well as ask pointed questions of both Corrections Minister Rob
Sampson and MTC president/CEO Scott Marquardt.
In response to press queries, it was revealed that inmates
would not likely be moved into the jail until at least October, and that
starting wages for staff would roughly equal those of public sector correctional
officers. No mention was made of benefits, working conditions or pensions.
There was a healthy skepticism among the press corps as
they fired questions at both Sampson and Marquardt. Most of the questions dealt
with guarantees about safety and the reasons for the low per diem rate. Clearly,
the reporters weren’t completely convinced that MTC was going to be the
glowing success that the Ministry was promising.
Toronto Star reporter Richard Brennan addressed the very
touchy issue of community opposition to the private U.S. company. “You’re
about as welcome here as a skunk at a picnic,” Brennan said to MTC’s
Marquardt. “What are you going to do to make yourselves welcome in this town?”
Marquardt was clearly rattled by the question, and stated that his company would
do as much as possible to win over the community.
In that respect, Marquardt has a very tough job ahead of
him. Residents are still angry and bitter over the government betrayal of their
town. Despite any attempts that MTC makes to mend fences with Penetanguishene,
one issue that won’t go away is the loss of a combined $1 million in business
taxes that Minister Sampson promised that the company would pay to the
municipality and Simcoe County. As Penetanguishene residents prepare to be hit
with a 5 per cent tax increase, it’s a very bitter pill to swallow.
But it’s not all about money. Citizens Against Private
Prisons chair Sharon Dion, whose home is almost directly across from the jail,
is now facing a personal change that she should would have preferred not to.
“I will now start locking my doors,” Dion said. “Until
now, I haven’t felt the need to, unless we were going out of town. The loss of
personal security is something that can never be replaced by smooth words from a
Make MTC “pay its fair share
Yesterday’s events sparked the following open letter to
Corrections Minister Rob Sampson from Liberal MPP and Corrections Critic David
Dear Minister Sampson:
As you know, I, along with Dalton McGuinty, Leader of
the Ontario Liberal Party, am opposed to the privatization of correctional
services. However, as you push forward with this ill-advised initiative, I would
ask as a bare minimum, that you fulfil a public promise you made to the people
of Penetanguishene, Ontario.
Today, as you hand over the new Central North
Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, Ontario to Management and Training
Corporation (MTC) of Utah, I respectfully request that you take action to ensure
that this business, like any other business, pays its fair share of business tax
to this community. According to local officials, this business tax would amount
to nearly $600,000 a year. You may recall that you promised to do so at a public
meeting in front of 300 Penetanguishene and area citizens on April 18, 2000.
We are often told that the Mike Harris government
apparently dislikes government handouts. I might point out that MTC, whose
American shareholders will be making a profit on Ontario’s public dollars, has
already been given the following:
free furniture fixtures and equipment
free food for inmates
a 33,000 square foot building to manufacture goods
full reimbursement of start up costs
free computers and computer training
a 93 million-dollar publicly funded facility with no up front capital
I feel such a handout is an inappropriate expenditure
of public funds. I believe you need to fulfil your public promise and ensure,
for the sake of a level playing field for honest hard working Ontario business
owners, that MTC pays its fair share.
Dave Levac, M.P.P.
Daryl Pitfield, chair of the OPSEU Provincial Corrections
Health and Safety Team, is proud to welcome Local 248’s Edward Almeida to the
team. Almeida, local president at Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre, will
replace outgoing vice-chair Nick Tefoglou.
“Eddie has a history of fighting for health and safety
from the first days he started at Hamilton,” Pitfield said. “I know he will
be a real asset.”
Tefoglou, who has left the Ministry to pursue other
interests, will be sadly missed. “Nick’s contributions to improving health
and safety over the last decade have been enormous,” Pitfield said.
Barry Scanlon, chair of the OPSEU Corrections Ministry
Employee Relations Committee, says that Almeida will be force to be reckoned
with. “Eddie has the drive and dedication necessary to become an important
member of the team. I know he will help us through this difficult time of
superjails and gutted health and safety legislation.
Scanlon also expressed his admiration for Tefoglou’s
work. “I got to know Nick quite well over the last ten years,” said Scanlon,
“His research, assistance, loyalty, fearlessness and genuine concern for the
members was first class. I know the personal sacrifices Nick made over the years
that helped make our workplaces better and safer. I have great respect for Nick
and wish he and his family the best in the future.”
Nick Tefoglou and Local 248 member Fred Duykers
(Hamilton-Wentworth DC) worked tireless hours between 1994 and 1998 putting
together the case that eventually resulted in the escort policy we have today.
As president of Local 359 (Whitby Jail), Nick initiated a ground breaking
grievance on unclassified conversions as well as obtaining a Ministry of Labour
(MOL) order in 1994 which led to full training for unclassified employees in all
Other health and safety achievements during Nick’s
tenure at the Whitby Jail include obtaining use of force training for all staff
in April, 2000, a decision on the requirement for a “competent” supervisor
in May, 1998, control room training in February, 1996 and a 1995 MOL order to
have netting placed over the yard to prevent contraband from entering.
For campaign information, call Don Ford (ext. 442) or
Pam Doig (ext. 687) at 1-800-268-7376 or (416) 443-8888.