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Union, province reach deal in Corrections talks

(TORONTO) – The OPSEU bargaining team for frontline correctional services workers has reached an agreement to settle all outstanding issues in contract talks with the Government of Ontario. The announcement comes after marathon negotiations that began Friday and went through to the early hours of Saturday morning.

“Our members spoke with a strong and united voice,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “We listened and we acted upon that voice. History is being written today, and I’m proud of the resolve that our courageous Corrections members have shown in making it happen.”

Tom O’Neill, Chair of the OPSEU Correctional Bargaining Team, said the agreement achieved enhancements over an earlier deal rejected by correctional workers in December. “All improvements in the November 23 agreement are in this deal, plus other improvements, most notably, transition to binding arbitration to settle bargaining disputes.

“This deal satisfies the strong desire of our members to have their wages set at arbitration,” O’Neill said. “Frontline correctional staff are first responders who deal with violence, trauma and tragedy in the normal course of our work, and we intend to be recognized for the vital service we provide in keeping Ontarians safe.”

Thomas warned the government that much more has to be done. “This is a first step to stabilizing a correctional system that's in crisis. But it can’t be the last. Our jails are bursting at the seams and our probation officers have the highest caseloads in Canada. We're facing a severe staffing shortage. Violence continues to escalate. We want to be part of a constructive dialogue with the government on ways to ease this crisis and ensure the safety of the public, correctional staff, and inmates.”

Thomas also expressed his appreciation for the tireless efforts of union members and staff over more than a year of very difficult negotiations. “My sincere thanks go out to the bargaining team for all their hard work," he said. “I also want to recognize the OPSEU Executive Board, our local leaders, and everyone who helped bring these talks to a successful conclusion.”

Some 6,000 Correctional workers, who have been without a contract since December 31, 2014, would have been in a legal strike or lockout position as of 12:01 on Sunday morning.

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Tom O'Neill

Related: Crisis In Corrections Index Page