HUNTSVILLE – The sound of sirens and whistles were loud and clear as 150 members of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO) marched outside Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement’s office on Sept. 7 in protest of heading into their third year without a collective agreement and the state of working conditions.
MARCHING FOR SAFETY.
Members of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers made a lot of noise outside MP Tony Clement’s office in protest of their working conditions and lack of a collective agreement.
Photo by Mandi Hargrave
“We want the minister to be aware that we’re very worried about a lot of the issues we’re facing in corrections these days and it doesn’t help that they continue to stall at the bargaining table to try to get a settlement done,” said Jason Godin, UCCO regional president. “Mr. Clement says he supports frontline correctional workers, but there seems to be no mandate from the treasury board to respect our working conditions. We’re asking for this minister who has two federal institutions in his riding to respect the bargaining process and be aware of our working conditions.”
The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat is responsible for federal employees; Clement is the president of the board.
Godin said the federal government talks about safer streets and communities but that’s not where they’re going.
“They’re double-bunking most of our institutions across the country, which severely diminishes access to programs which are important for rehabilitation and quite frankly they’re Americanizing our prison system and in the end we certainly won’t have safer streets or safer communities,” he said.
Godin noted the number of new inmates is increasing while the government is closing institutions.
“The math isn’t adding up,” he said. “We’re the experts in the business and we’re very concerned about it because we live in these communities too. Rehabilitation is an essential part to public safety and they’re completely ignoring that.”
At Beaver Creek Institution in Gravenhurst, Godin said the facility is 65 per cent double-bunked.
“We believe that Mr. Clement, as part of the government, is part of the problem. He certainly isn’t making any solutions,” said Godin. “We’re asking him to do the right thing and support the constituents that live in his riding and respect the job that we do and right now this government that we have doesn’t respect its frontline men and women who are tasked with public safety and security for Canadians.”
He said the numbers of violent incidents across Canada are up 30 per cent according to Canadian corrections investigator, Howard Sapers, and the number of assaults on correctional workers are up 15 per cent in the last year.
“Our working conditions are getting extremely worse,” said Godin. “We’re asking the minister to give the treasury board negotiator a mandate to get something settled and to sit down and discuss the issues we’re faced with nowadays.”
Clement said he respects and supports the right to public protest, as long as it remains peaceful and respects the rights of others.
“That said, the appropriate place for contract negotiations is at the bargaining table and this has been expressed to UCCO members and their leadership on occasions prior to today’s protest,” he said.
Godin said his members won’t quit fighting until the issue is resolved.
“We’ll keep coming back until he listens to us.”