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New hires in Corrections a big step in the right direction: OPSEU

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the Ford government’s decision to hire hundreds of new Corrections staff is an important step to easing the crisis in Ontario’s Corrections system.

“We appreciate the efforts made by the Premier, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Ministers Phillips and Bethlenfalvy to keep a promise to address understaffing and safety for both the staff and inmates in Corrections,” said Thomas. “It’s a very positive step in challenging times and hopefully one that we can build on.”

The government announced today that it would bring on hundreds of new staff throughout the Corrections system.

OPSEU, along with the Ministry Employee Relations Committee (MERC) and Provincial Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (PJOHSC), has been tirelessly lobbying two successive governments for more resources in Corrections, and the announcement is the culmination of years of hard work.

“We have seen this government listen to frontline workers and the union on concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s encouraging to see this being carried over to other issues,” said Thomas. “It’s another example of what can be achieved when members in a strong union put their shoulders to the plow.”

Chris Jackel, the head of OPSEU’s Corrections Division, says it’s an historic moment for Corrections.

“This announcement, after years of relentless advocacy and dialogue, is fantastic news.  It will allow us to better supervise offenders, meaning improved safety for them, the public and Corrections workers,” said Jackel. “It’s also a real boost for our members to know they aren’t being forgotten and that some of their concerns are being addressed.

“These additional 500 new full-time Correctional staff and the new capital projects for Kenora and Thunder Bay will turn the tide out of crisis. The work to get this done has not been easy, but I’d like to extend a huge thank-you to the Premier, the Solicitor General, the Deputy Solicitor General, and OPSEU for their continued collaboration and support.”

OPSEU First-Vice President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, who has had a long career as a Corrections Officer, says the government will find this is an investment that will pay for itself.

“Our members in Corrections have faced high rates of PTSD as well as physical injuries, so more staff will ease the burden and likely result in reduced health costs,” said Almeida. “More staff also means we’ll be better able to detect and prevent problems before they start, reducing violent incidents, providing much needed inmate support, and making our province safer for everyone.”

Thomas says he will ask to meet with Solicitor General Jones to continue the dialogue on other critical issues.

“We are pleased with what we’ve seen today, but the work to improve public services never stops,” said Thomas. “All we have ever asked for is meaningful consultation to solve problems whether they are in Corrections or any other workplace in which we represent members. This is yet another hopeful sign that Premier Ford means it when he says he and his government are ready to work with its frontline staff and their union so Ontarians have the public services they deserve.”

For more information:  Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931