Ottawa correctional officers prepare for 'long, nasty strike'

Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre correctional officers are protesting as the province installs portable living quarters for managers outside the jail as a contingency plan for a looming strike.

Correctional officers across Ontario will be in legal strike position Sunday

Off-duty correctional officers picket outside the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre to block the arrival of portable living quarters. The quarters are meant for managers as a contingency plan in case correctional officers strike on Sunday. (CBC)

Correctional officers at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre are protesting as the province installs portable living quarters for managers outside the jail as a contingency plan for a looming strike.

Correctional officers across the province have been without a contract for more than a year and will be in a legal strike position at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday after the latest round of negotiations were unsuccessful. Contract talks are expected to resume Friday.

The delivery of all these strike quarters — they're prepared for a long and nasty strike, and so are we.- Correctional officer Nicolas  Beauchamp

A report released last fall describes poor condition at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, including spoiled food and frequent lockdowns prompted by understaffing and overcrowding. 

A dozen off-duty officers picketed outside the jail Tuesday to block the arrival of 20-metre-long trailers containing kitchens and beds that are being trucked in for managers in case of a strike. By noon, eight trucks carrying the portables were onsite.

"It makes it real," said Nicolas Beauchamp, who has has been a correctional officer for eight years. "It shows that they're, obviously, ready and that they bargained for a strike. The delivery of all these strike quarters  they're prepared for a long and nasty strike, and so are we."

Concerns over lockdowns, rising tensions

Beauchamp said provincial correctional officers deserve a 10 per cent wage hike to give them parity with their federal counterparts. He added that they should be declared first responders like police and firefighters. 

Beauchamp said staff shortages and repeated lockdowns for the jail's 550 inmates will only escalate if inexperienced managers take over.

During lockdowns, inmates can be kept in their cells for lengthy periods of time, their access to showers and phones can be limited, and scheduled programs and professional and personal visits can be cancelled.

"The tension in the jail rises because it's on lockdown and inmates, they're frustrated because they don't get to see their loved ones, they don't have access to the phone," he said. "I've been assaulted myself. It's about public safety because these people will get out."