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Lock Talk:  A Publication of the OPSEU Corrections Campaign

June 16, 2004

 "Summer of Chaos" kicks off in Hamilton

Correctional officers protest "abuse" of unclassified employees

On Friday, May 28th, correctional officers gathered outside the Bellcairn provincial training facility in Hamilton to mark the beginning of what is being called a "Summer of Chaos" in the provincial jail system.

Officers turned out from Maplehurst Complex, Hamilton-Wentworth DC, Elgin-Middlesex DC, Niagara DC, Toronto West DC and Syl Apps Youth Centre to protest the differential and discriminatory hiring practices many unclassified officers are being subjected to.

Barry Scanlon, chair of OPSEU's Corrections Division, said the influx of new recruits into facilities already overloaded with unclassified staff has current unclassified officers at the breaking point.

"This summer will mark a turning point in the history of the unclassified staff in our jails; they are simply not going to take any more abuse," Scanlon said. "Our facilities are being inundated with unclassified employees, meaning that available hours for them to work are reduced."

Scanlon went on to say that this reduction in working hours means that many unclassified officers can't earn a living wage. "Despite not having any guarantee of work, these officers have to be available 24 hours per day or face discipline," Scanlon said. "This, combined with the abundance of favoritism levied by many managers towards a select few unclassifieds, means that some members have no choice but to throw in the towel and leave."

Moira Cowan, an unclassified representative at Elgin-Middlesex DC, said it is time to stop treating unclassified correctional officers as the second-class part of the justice system. "There aren't unclassified police officers, crown attorneys or judges," Cowan said. "Why are there unclassified correctional officers?"

During the protest, Scanlon spoke with Gary Commeford, Assistant Deputy Minister of Adult Institutional Services, and explained the current plight unclassified officers are facing. Mr. Commeford agreed that the government needs to address its current hiring practices, the number of new recruits graduating and the development and implementation of a province-wide unclassified hiring system. Mr. Commeford also agreed to look at a proposal to address these issues over the next few weeks. Formal discussions between OPSEU and the Ministry will begin on June 17.

During the protest, a barbeque was put on by members from Hamilton and Maplehurst to the enjoyment of all in attendance. We thank everyone who came out, including the staff from Syl Apps who left their picket line to lend support to this worthy cause.

Watch for information about upcoming protest actions this summer.

For more information, call Don Ford (ext. 442) at 1-800-268-7376 or (416) 443-8888.

e-mail: dford@opseu.org 

Original authorized for distribution by Leah Casselman, president.

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