Corrections Workers Reject New Tentative Deal

Local corrections workers aren't happy with a new collective agreement handed to them by the corporate branch of their union.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has reached a new four-year agreement with the provincial government, but Local 135 president Randy Simpraga says his members aren't getting on board.

"Some would say it was a rift, I would think it was a mistake," says Simpraga, surprised his local wasn't part of the bargaining process.

Local 135, representing workers at the South West Detention Centre in Windsor, voted 98.8% against the deal and other corrections locals within the province are following suit.

Simpraga says his local wants a chance at the bargaining table to hammer out their own deal. He stresses the corrections system is very different to other provincial civil services.

"We have a two-tier system in corrections where we have part-time correctional officers. These men and women do so much with so little respect from the government that we need to start eradicating that," says Simpraga. "You don't hear of a part-time police officer. You don't hear of a part-time firefighter."

AM800-NEWS-Southwest-Detention-Centre

Southwest Detention Centre (Photo by AM800's Zander Broeckel)

The 8,000 corrections workers across Ontario voting on the deal rejected it with 94.7% not in favour.

However, a second deal covering the 27,000 Ontario Public Service workers represented by the Unified Bargaining Team was ratified with 81.7% in favour.

OPSEU co-chair of the Ministry Employee Relations Committee — part of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services  — Monte Vieselmeyer says members have spoken clearly and a new team will soon negotiate a new collective agreement.

“The team will meet with the employer as soon as possible to begin work on a new deal,” says Vieselmeyer in an OPSEU statement. “Since correctional workers can no longer strike following the latest changes to the Crown Employees Collective Bargaining Act, if no agreement is reached, outstanding issues will go before an arbitrator to be settled.”

Simpraga knows corrections workers can't strike, so it may end up in arbitration.

"Ultimately, we just want to bargain our own collective agreement," says Simpraga. "What just took place, a collective agreement was handed to us, it was agreed to by our corporate union, not agreed to by the membership and the numbers are flying in — overwhelmingly, 'No.'"

He points to several issues the new deal neglects to address.

"We're tremendously understaffed across the province," says Simpraga. "We're working in the highest stress environment. We've seen the changes made with segregation — things are getting tougher and tougher to manage on the inside."

The deal corrections workers rejected included a 7.5% pay raise over the four-year contract.

The two tentative agreements were reached on June 2.