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December 30, 1999

Union files complaint over privatization of offender escorts

OPSEU has filed complaints with the Ontario Labour Relations Board over Ontario government plans to privatize offender transportation.

On Aug. 28, the Ministry of Correctional Services had agreed to provide training and equipment to make community escorts safer. Then it announced, on Nov. 19, that it would contract out offender transportation.

The Aug. 28 agreement was made an order of the Occupational Health and Safety Adjudicator. OPSEU says the employer has violated both the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Ontario Labour Relations Act because the privatization is:

  • a dismissal or threat to dismiss correctional officers
  • a penalty imposed on correctional officers whose available hours and income will be reduced; and
  • intimidation and coercion of correctional officers.

The union complaint states that the privatization announcement is a retaliation against the union for being too successful. It says that the employer is trying to intimidate correctional officers so they won’t try to exercise their rights.

No business plan

The Escort Working Group was a union-management committee set up to help make the Aug. 28 agreement work. Somehow, employer representatives on the committee never mentioned that they were working on a project that would never happen. In fact, the employer had expressly agreed that correctional officers would be doing the escorts.

In the Nov. 19 meeting of the Employee Relations Committee, Corrections Assistant Deputy Minister John Rabeau said that, to his knowledge, no one had done a business case for the privatization. He said that, as far as he knew, the Ministry had done no work to show that privatization would actually be cheaper.

It appears the order to privatize came from on high - a shot to the head, courtesy of your boss.

Just stop it!

As a remedy to the complaint, OPSEU’s has called on the Board to order the government to "cease and desist from continuing to attempt to privatize the community escorts."

Local MPP stands up for Burtch

From a statement to the legislature by Dave Levac, Liberal MPP for Brant, on Dec. 22, 1999:

I rise today to inform the House of my deep concerns about the plans and action this government is taking with regard to Burtch Correctional Centre just outside of Brantford.

This facility at one time was a centrepiece for true correction and rehabilitation of inmates. The programs were highly successful, innovative and modelled by many other facilities, especially the First Nations program there in Burtch - that is, until Mike Harris needed to change things to set the stage for privatization.

You know the scam by now: underfund, cut, overwork the employees, tell the world it’s broken, create a crisis and then save the day. It’s happening again. This time they cancelled a very successfull, money-making farm program within Burtch, a highly successful canning operation, recycling program, soap-making program, and reduced the education program. What was the effect? A higher per diem and no rehabilitation. Create the crisis, then save the day.

Now, how are they going to save the day? They’re going to bring in an American-style warehousing of inmates.

Here’s the rub: the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant, in which Burtch is located, thinks this is great. He thinks moving the inmates to Penetanguishene is the right thing to do. He thinks taking $20 million out of the local economy is good. He thinks transferring the job site instead of closing the site is cute. Why? Because guards then lose their jobs, with no successor rights, and the private prison gets to hire the less expensive, poorly-trained rookie guards. The government gets to bust another union.

Shame on the government!

Original authorized for distribution by Leah Casselman, President.