Background: OPSEU Correctional Officers and the Dispute at Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre
Week of August 13
The dispute began when our correctional officers reported a metal object missing from the facility. This metal object could potentially have been fashioned into a weapon or other dangerous device. Correctional officers asked that they be allowed to wear protective vests when conducting a cell-by-cell search for the metal object. Management denied this request
Our correctional officers said they would not conduct the search without protective gear. Management responded by stopping them from reporting for duty. Subsequently, management personnel were brought in to HWDC from other facilities across Ontario to perform the duties of our correctional officers. Two managers have since been injured by inmates.
Managers who have worked as replacements of our members have been allowed to wear their protective vests.
Week of August 20
At HWDC, they are practicing rotational lock-down, meaning inmates have limited use of showers and other privileges such as phone use. All programming has been suspended. Negotiations during this week did produce an agreement on health and safety. However, management insisted on imposing a ‘no work, no pay’ penalty and other disciplinary measures for the time our correctional officers were denied access to their duties. As the impasse continued our members have not been allowed to report to duty.
An Information rally was staged outside HWDC on Aug. 23.
Week of August 27
On Monday, Aug. 27 hundreds of Correctional Officers from all over the province demonstrated at Queen’s Park. There was considerable news coverage and support from Opposition MPPs at the rally. Dan Sidsworth, Chair of the OPSEU Corrections MERC and President Warren (“Smokey”) Thomas lead a delegation into the legislature where they met with Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services who assured them of a further meeting to resolve the issue. The MERC and representatives from Local 248 continued to meet all week.
Correctional Officers have been bargaining in good faith from day one of this dispute. In spite of their efforts, management has broken off negotiations. By doing so, the employer is preventing members from working in a safe workplace without reprisals.
On Wednesday, August 29, the Union was left with no choice but to withdraw from the Ministry Employee Relations Committee, including all MERC sub-committees (but excluding the Health and Safety Committee).