Dorms for managers going in at EMDC ahead of contract talks with guards
Bargaining hasn't even started but Ontario's Ministry of Corrections appears to be gearing up for a strike.
At more than a dozen jails, including the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre, construction of living accommodations for managers is getting underway.
CTV News has obtained the blueprints for new dorms at the Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ont. showing several living areas - not for inmates, but for managers.
Dominic Bragaglia, president of OPSEU Local 108, says "They're building all these accommodations for the managers. That was one of their biggest gripes last time around, they didn't like where they stayed, it was very uncomfortable."
When correctional officers go on strike or are locked out, management has to keep guard 24 hours a day, so dorms are being built in Lindsay, Sudbury, Hamilton and now London's EMDC has contractors coming in to put in staff laundry rooms and showers.
However, the contract for correctional officers doesn't expire until the end of 2014 and bargaining is still months away.
"I'm concerned that the ministry doesn't care about collective bargaining. I'm not happy about this and there are people that are very angry about this," Bragaglia says.
OPSEU sees this a big problem for negotiations, Rain Loftus says "They're spending money on something that isn't guaranteed - as far as a lock out - unless that's their mindset and if that's the case, that's a form of bad faith bargaining."
The union is equally concerned about the cost of these renovations - particularly when upgrades to make jails a safer place for staff and inmates are being ignored.
Kristy Galloway, the health and safety representative at EMDC, says "If we have the money for these things, then why aren't we replacing the lights? Because shouldn't the safety of staff and inmates come first?"
Lights are easily taken apart by inmates and used as weapons and the union claims replacing them would cost less than the renovations underway for a strike or lock out that may not happen.
The ministry acknowledges that these are, in fact, strike preparations.
In an email statement, Andrew Morrison, media relations for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, says:
"The Government of Ontario values the work of all of our correctional services staff, including our correctional officers, and the contribution they make to keeping Ontario safe. Our government is fully committed to the collective bargaining process and to achieving a fair negotiated settlement. However, the potential for labour disruption exists in any contract negotiations. It would be irresponsible to put public safety at risk by failing to prepare for such an outcome.
"In the event of a labour disruption the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services remains responsible for the health, safety and transportation of more than 8,000 inmates, as well as all of the managers and staff that would run the institutions 24 hours a day. The work being carried out at some of our correctional institutions will help the government ensure public safety. The same work will also provide lasting improvements to institutions that will help us ensure the safety and security of both staff and inmates."
As Bragaglia says, it seems "They are already preparing for us to be out, one way or another."
Before negotiations can even begin, bargaining teams have to be elected - that basic requirement won't even happen until June.