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Thomas calls on Matthews for strike safety guarantee

(TORONTO) – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has sent an open letter to Deputy Premier Deb Matthews seeking a guarantee that non-correctional workers working in jails will be safe from harm in the event of a strike by correctional workers.

OPSEU-represented employees such as kitchen staff, maintenance workers, nurses, and administrative staff work in correctional facilities but do not belong to the Correctional Bargaining Unit. As such, they would normally continue to work during a strike or lockout.

Thomas believes government plans to use non-corrections managers to replace highly-skilled and experienced correctional officers should be of grave concern to all Ontarians. “These individuals manage IT workers, policy analysts and correspondence writers,” he wrote to Matthews. “They are in no way qualified to supervise the shrewd and violent criminals incarcerated in Ontario’s jails.

“By allowing OPS managers to take the place of correctional professionals,” Thomas continued, “you endanger their lives, the lives of inmates and the lives of Ontarians in the community. You also jeopardize the safety and security of [non-correctional] employees working in correctional facilities.”

In his letter, Thomas asks Matthews for a written guarantee that non-correctional OPSEU workers will not be at increased risk of harm during a strike or lockout. But the OPSEU president said it was unlikely he would get one.

“Instead of addressing the crisis in corrections they created, it seems this government has chosen to gamble with the lives of replacement workers, inmates and ordinary Ontarians. That’s a bad choice, but I didn’t make it. However, I can act to ensure OPSEU members stay out of harm’s way. And I am determined to do everything I can, if it becomes necessary.”

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Warren (Smokey) Thomas

Related: Crisis In Corrections Index Page