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Employer’s anti-labour bias exposed in corrections bargaining

Toronto – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) corrections team negotiating a new collective agreement is expressing anger with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services after government negotiators failed to submit a brief during mediation.

“By saying absolutely nothing, this employer has spoken volumes about its arrogant attitude towards correctional workers,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “They’ve essentially thumbed their noses at 8,000 hardworking folks who believed there would be real collective bargaining.”

The government refused to budge on the monetary proposals it put forward on April 20. The impasse led to a request from the bargaining team for conciliation on May 3. During conciliation, the government made it clear it was not interested in negotiating monetary items, triggering a request for mediation from the bargaining team, which was held today.

“We hired an expert labour lawyer to help us prepare an extensive brief,” said Chris Jackel, chair of the Correctional bargaining team “We spent hours carefully preparing documentation that would support mediation. The employer had a month to do their homework, but they arrived empty-handed: no documentation, no brief, no new offer.

“It’s extremely frustrating when both sides agree on a mediation date, and the employer side fails to come prepared,” Jackel continued. “More than that, it’s insulting. It puts the lie to all their flowery talk about valuing correctional staff. If they had an ounce of respect for us, they’d have come prepared to negotiate. Where’s the integrity?

“With this last setback, we’ll be re-evaluating our position.”

Thomas concluded that the government had no real agenda to fix the crisis in corrections. “A month ago, they passed a bill they said would transform Ontario’s correctional system,” he noted. “But there was no money in the budget for corrections transformation. And now they’re tossing their end of collecting bargaining into an arbitrator’s lap.

“We’ve heard lots of promises during the election campaign, but just days before the vote, actions like this cut through all the rhetoric like a hot knife through butter. Ontarians deserve much better.”

For more information: Chris Jackel, cmjackel.corr.merc@gmail.com