Civil service managers have 'no business' running jails, union says
Ontarians may soon get a look at what it looks like when government managers are pressed into service to run provincial jails and a local union leader and a local MPP both believe it won't a be pretty sight.
Ontario's jail guards and probation officers will be in a legal strike position as of 12:01 a.m. Sunday. The provincial government intends to bring in managers from other civil service departments to pick up the slack if a strike occurs.
Randy Simpraga, a correctional officer at the South West Detention Centre who is also the president of OPSEU Local 135, said these government managers are not up to the job of running jails like the one he works at.
"You're going to see [the jail] staffed with managers from other ministries who have no business dealing with our clientele," he told CBC News on Thursday.
He thinks the safety of the inmates could be compromised by this arrangement.
"There is predatory behaviour on the inside and the inmates will do what they have to do to protect themselves," said Simpraga.
Simpraga said he's also worried about the safety of the nurses, and other jail staff who will not be in a position to strike on the weekend, as their employment is covered under a different contract.
"It's not going to be pretty," he said. "I don't know how their safety is going to be guaranteed."
Lisa Gretzky, the MPP for Windsor West, also expressed concerns Thursday about what will happen if a strike occurs.
"The thought of having untrained, unqualified people running a facility, while those that are trained to be in there are on the outside is very concerning," Gretzky told reporters after touring the Windsor-area jail on Thursday.
CBC News reached out to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services for comment on Thursday afternoon, but it did not immediately return a formal response.
However, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi said last month the province has a contingency plan in place to keep staff and inmates safe.
"The safety and security of our correctional staff, inmates, and the community is our top priority. Our government is committed to bargaining and to reaching a negotiated settlement, but we also have a contingency plan in place to keep staff, inmates and the community safe in case of any labour disruption," he said in a statement issued in late December. "The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services will continue to be responsible for the health, safety and transportation of more than 8,000 inmates and staff that would run the institutions, and the monitoring of offenders on probation and parole. These plans will make sure this is done in a way that keeps our communities safe while delivering the essential services Ontarians rely on every day."
With files from The Canadian Press and the CBC's Amy Dodge