TORONTO – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is warning the leaders of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (commonly referred to as CSN) to stop wasting time and money trying to raid Ontario’s Correctional Officers when they should be focused on the safety of their own members and their families.
“I’m shocked that during the pandemic, this union’s leadership is wasting its members’ money to interfere with all the good work OPSEU’s Corrections leaders are doing on behalf of their members,” said Thomas. “COVID-19 is spreading fast in Canada’s penitentiaries, and federal correctional workers and their families are in real danger. But instead of focusing on their own members, the union is using their dues to spread what they know to be fake news to OPSEU members.
“It’s despicable, this is no time to be playing games. Lives are at risk.”
Since the pandemic began a month ago, OPSEU has racked up a series of important health and safety victories, earning the respect and praise of workers, members, and even Premier Doug Ford. The 165,000-strong union has forced employers to provide vital safety measures and equipment, stopped layoffs and forced vacations, and ensured that the vast majority of its members are not losing pay, seniority, or job security.
“Frontline workers have never been more important, and we’re fighting day-in and day-out to keep them and their families safe,” said Thomas.
To protect its nearly 10,000 members in Corrections, OPSEU’s elected leaders and health-and-safety experts have been working tirelessly and successfully to keep their members safe, including:
- Advocating to ensure all members get the needed protective equipment
- More than doubling comp time and extending payout by a full year
- Establishing active screening measures in all facilities
- Stopping all non-essential inmate transfers
- Ensuring a Local President is fully booked-off at each institution to have a full-time voice in health and safety
- Having a strong and relentless presence in the media
- Achieving a critical staffing model ensuring that only a third of Probation and Parole staff are in the office while the rest work remotely. Staff are working a rotating schedule of every three weeks to ensure they can continue to provide critical public safety services in this alternative delivery service model.
- Probation Officers continue to serve youth while working remotely
At the same time, the Ontario-based union has continually set a positive example for other employers. OPSEU closed its offices, cancelled face-to-face meetings, and directed its 350-person staff to work from home before most other employers even recognized the critical importance of social distancing.
And earlier this week, OPSEU’s President Thomas, First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida and all excluded executive staff, in order to support their own frontline staff, rolled back their own wages by 20 per cent for the duration of the crisis.
“OPSEU is big, diverse, and strong – and our employers know it,” said the chair of OPSEU’s Corrections Division, Chris Jackel. “That’s why we’ve been leading the way in safety measures for our members, across all other Canadian corrections jurisdictions. CSN has no right to represent our members and we reiterate that causing dissension/division among our workers, during a pandemic only speaks volumes of their credibility or lack thereof.”
Jackel acknowledges that a small number of rogue managers asked individual members to sign a waiver to use their own personal mask. But those waivers were immediately rescinded as soon as OPSEU leadership challenged the employer.
“This overreach by a few misinformed managers is now no longer an issue,” said Jackel. “OPSEU members know that they can and should refuse to sign any waiver or subcontract. Our divisional leadership squashed it in its tracks.”
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, himself a Correctional Officer, said that he and Thomas, along with OPSEU’s Executive Board and correctional leaders, are working around-the-clock for their members’ safety. He suggests that the leaders of CSN focus on doing the same for their own membership.
“Instead of wasting time and money sending out useless and confusing memos to OPSEU members, with no return address, CSN would be wise to focus 100 per cent of its attention on their own members,” said Almeida. “We know that the federal correctional workers of CSN are struggling right now to keep themselves safe from infection. Our thoughts are with them and their families, and we wish them solidarity and good luck. If there is anything we can do to assist, we would be more than pleased to provide that leadership.”
For more information:
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931