Workers at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre are one step closer to striking after they joined colleagues across Ontario in voting against a tentative agreement with the provincial government.
About a dozen correctional workers — members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union — held an information picket line Thursday morning and delayed people entering the facility by pacing back and forth along the gate outside the jail.
The officers have been seeking a new contract as part of province-wide negotiations with the Kathleen Wynne government.
In addition to a wage increase, correctional workers want the province to grant them binding arbitration by declaring theirs an essential service, according to Denis Collin, an OCDC correctional officer and president of OPSEU Local 411.
The province said it will consider binding interest arbitration at the next round of talks in 2018, but that's not soon enough for Nick Kennedy, who has spent 19 years as a correctional officer.
'It blows my mind'
"It blows my mind in this government, how they can take that approach. It's outrageous, and it reflects in the collective agreement we've been offered and how we've been treated over the years, the conditions in the jail. It's just a failed system and nobody's doing anything to fix it," he said.
"I'm the one who goes through the door first. I do the first aid, I break the fight up. We are the first responders, period. We do all the jobs of every other agency in one job here, and we're not recognized for that. It's outrageous."
Collin said workplace morale at the jail is low and that the working environment is "tense and toxic."
In a written statement, the Ontario government says it's disappointed the workers have rejected the tentative agreement but remains committed to the collective bargaining process.
"Our government respects and values the hard work of our correctional services employees. Correctional services staff in our communities work hard every day to keep us safe and we acknowledge the difficult challenges they face," the statement reads.