Sudbury jail workers looking at possible strike, lockout, by Sunday
Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas slams Sudbury jail as "filthy", "crumbling"
The MPP for Nickel Belt is lending her voice to the rising chorus of frustrated correctional officers in Ontario — just days before the worker's contracts with the province lapse with no tentative agreement yet in place.
The union for correctional and probation officers has today scheduled a last-ditch attempt at reaching a contract with the Ontario government. OPSEU president Smokey Thomas said the two sides will meet Friday.
But, as workers this week ramped up publicity around this escalating labour unrest, NDP MPP France Gelinas toured the Sudbury jail on Monday, her third such tour through the facility.
"Cells are very small, made for one [person] and there's four people in there," she said of her impression of the conditions inside.
"Two bunk beds and two mattresses on the floor. This is — those are conditions that I could not imagine we had that in Ontario ... [or] in Sudbury."
Since one of her last visits, Gelinas did note some improvements in certain areas. For instance, she said she complained that the nursing station in the jail was outdated and poorly equipped, and it looks now like steps have been taken to remedy the problems.
"They will also hire three more nurses," she said. "They are in the process of hiring so I am glad that helped a bit and changes are happening in that department."
However, on the whole, Gelinas said the nearly century-old building is "filthy" and "crumbling".
"Mouse dropping[s], smells of dope throughout most of the ranges mixed in with the smell of smoke because we had a fire yesterday with a lot of unhappy people on lock-down in their cells," she said.
A union representative also said over the weekend that a knife went missing and inmates lit fires.
But for months now, correctional officers in Sudbury have been voicing their concerns about dangerous, unhealthy working conditions in the jail.
CBC News reported in December that Sudbury staff complained of mice running rampant, leaky walls and poor air quality. On top of the complaints about the building, they were worried about not having enough hands to safely control sometimes violent or mentally ill offenders.
At the same time, workers at correctional institutions across Ontario rejected a tentative contract agreement with the province by a 67 per cent margin.
As labour tensions heat up, the MPP for Timiskaming-Cochrane, John Vanthof, planned to tour the North Bay jail Tuesday afternoon.
Correctional officers in Ontario could be on strike or in a lockout position if a tentative deal is not reached by Saturday night.
Meanwhile, the government is making contingency plans in case of such an event: managers from other areas of the public service will help keep the jails and probation offices running.