A battle is brewing between the province and its correctional officers after a 'no board' report was issued by the Ministry of Labour on Christmas Eve.

That report means jail guards could be in a strike or lockout position on Jan. 10.

Dominic Bragaglia, head of OPSEU Local 108, which represents nearly 200 guards at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Center (EMDC), says what comes next won't be pretty.

He says he's not optimistic a settlement can be reached before the deadline, "For me, personally, I've had it. They want to fight - let's do it."

The union's concerns about conditions at EMDC are well-known, and Bragaglia says the looming strike or lockout has not only the union and managers getting ready, but also the inmates - with more weapons found.

"Stuff is now being found more frequently - and it's more disturbing. And you can tell the inmates are getting a little more agitated as time goes by."

Across the province, 67 percent of the 5,500 correctional workers voted against a tentative agreement, and in London staff were even more unified, voting 93 per cent in favour of a strike.

And while conditions inside EMDC and other Ontario jails remain the top priority, Bragaglia doesn't shy away from the financial demands of correctional officers.

He says guards want a 10-per cent raise right away, along with two per cent over the subsequent two years, "You know at some point it has to be about the money."

Bragaglia says it's a fair request given the pay rates of other agencies that deal with dangerous offenders, "I mean the police now are about $26,000 to $27,000 above us."

All that is known for certain right now is that managers will be asked to step in for correctional officers, should they be off the job.

Meanwhile Deputy Premier Deb Matthews said in a statement the government remains available to talk, to "work to get real results to improve the safety and security" of Ontario's jails.

But Bragaglia says he hasn't heard of any movement at the bargaining table yet, "This government hasn't been trying to negotiate a collective agreement with us. They've been preparing for a strike."