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Ontario jail workers receive 'essential service' stamp, avoiding strike

Correctional officers are on the job this morning, thanks to a last minute weekend deal that averted a strike.

OPSEU, provincial government reach an agreement early Saturday morning after meeting with mediator

Ontario's correctional workers have given up their right to strike in the latest round of contract negotiations with the government. The Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the government reached an agreement early Saturday morning after a meeting with a mediator. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Strike averted... Correctional officers and the provincial government have reached a deal. We spoke with Nathan Aubin, the president of OPSEU local 617, the union representing correctional workers in Sudbury, to get more details. 6:27

Correctional officers are on the job this morning, thanks to a last minute weekend deal that averted a strike.

Part of the deal sees the workers giving up their right to strike in exchange for being declared an essential service.

The vice president of the OPSEU 617 union local at the Sudbury jail said the agreement brings members one step closer to being in line with police and first responders.

Staffing levels, wages and health and safety issues are expected to be sorted out through arbitration, which will take place sometime over the next two months. 

"I think what we're trying to achieve is comparable wages to our law enforcement counterparts, and stronger language in regards to health and safety for the work that we do in our institutions, and more staffing would be beneficial for the working conditions that we face day in and day out," Ashley Zelionka said.

Nevertheless, the essential services designation is nothing short of exciting, she added.

"Everybody is pretty relieved and feel that this is a historic win for us."

The head of the union representing correctional workers in Sudbury said the focus going forward will be making sure his members are respected.

"Then more people will see working in corrections as a career, rather than a part-time job or a stepping stone to other career avenues," Nathan Aubin said.

He said he is hopeful there will be an increase in staffing in Ontario jails.

Union health and safety co-chair Kevin St-Jean said if there's a commitment by the government to improve and increase staffing levels, the offenders' needs will be met.

"What I mean by that is there will be less lockdowns due to staffing level shortages," he continued.

"They'll get their visits. They'll get their recreation time programming. So that eases the tension inside the jail."

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