Hundreds of correctional officers are expected to rally at Queen's Park Monday in an attempt to resolve the 13-day labour dispute at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union says its goal is to meet with Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Madelaine Meilleur to fix things.
Dan Sidsworth, vice-chair of correctional services for OPSEU, told CBC Hamilton on Sunday he doesn't think the right message has been getting through to the minister.
“I think she's got a skewed view of what's going on,” Sidworth said, adding that until now, most of Meilleur's information has been coming from management at the jail.
Hamilton's correctional officers have been involved in a health and safety dispute with management since Aug. 13.
That day, officers noticed a piece of metal had gone missing in a section of the jail and asked to perform a full search of the facility wearing their protective vests.
Management wouldn't allow that, saying it would intimidate and instigate the offenders, the union said.
Sidsworth says he's been getting emails from correctional officers all over the province about the dispute, and there are six busloads of people heading to Queen's Park tomorrow.
Officers are coming from Hamilton, Milton, Midland, Lindsay and Kingston.
Corrections ministry press secretary, Seirge LeBlanc, said that Meilleur was not available for direct comment Friday. Meilleur, however, did email CBC Hamilton the following statement:
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the managers who have been working diligently to maintain operations at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre. It is important that the safety and security of staff and inmates remain intact. I have confidence in my officials to resolve this issue with the union. As negotiations are on-going, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further."
Sidsworth says there are around 30 managers running the jail in place of the usual 80 correctional officers, and “tensions are running high with the inmates.”
On Thursday, two managers and an OPP court transportation officer were assaulted in the jail.
Health care staff has remained on duty. Public visits have been limited and inmate programs have been cancelled. Inmates are being let out of their cells to shower and use the phone, the union says.
“Labour relations in Hamilton have not been stellar through the years,” Sidsworth said. “There have been communication problems, and somebody needs to step in.”