Monthly Archives: January 2009

And now we begin again.


Vote Results

The results of the OPS Contract vote are as follows:

Central: 86 per cent in favour – Agreement Ratified (Turnout was 57 per cent)

Unified Bargaining Unit: 95 per cent in favour – (Turnout was 54 per cent)

Corrections Bargaining Unit – 89 per cent against – Employer Offer Rejected (Turnout was 77 per cent)

Below is the Press Release that is being sent out this evening.



Corrections workers vote for strike; remainder of public service accept agreement

TORONTO – Nearly 5,500 Corrections workers who work in Ontario’s correctional facilities and supervise offenders in the community have voted 89 per cent in favour of strike action.

At issue is a government plan that would penalize correctional officers and youth workers for taking more than five sick days a year. Dave Kerr, chair of the Corrections bargaining team, says he is pleased that his members have supported the team, and is looking forward to returning to the bargaining table.

“This strong rejection should show the government that our ALL of our members are not interested in an offer that punishes correctional officers and youth workers, even those not affected by it,” Kerr said. “Probation and probation and parole officers, along with bailiffs and non-uniform members in the institutions and in the community have all rejected this offer. We know we can work with the government to come to an acceptable agreement that addresses long-standing issues in Corrections.”

The remaining 35,000 OPS members who work directly for the Ontario government have ratified their tentative agreement. That agreement contains a wage increase of 7.75 per cent over four years, along with improvements to benefits, job security and gains for contract workers.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, says he is pleased that part of the OPS has ratified, and will fully back the Corrections Unit as they return to bargaining.

“The Province showed a great deal of cooperation in getting the tentative agreements for all of our members outside of Corrections,” Thomas said. “Now they need to show the same resolve with our Corrections members.”

Premier should look inward at labour relations


OPSEU President Smokey Thomas

OPSEU President Smokey Thomas

President’s Message

Premier should look inward at labour relations

January 29, 2009

While McGuinty has “knocked heads” at York University, he is conveniently ignoring a potential powder keg in his own back yard: Correctional workers who are taking a strike vote on the province’s latest contract offer.

A strategically-timed Auditor General’s report a few months ago highlighted that sick time for correctional officers and youth workers was high. At the same time, Corrections Ministry negotiators were at the bargaining table trying to hammer through a new sick time plan for these two groups of employees. This plan, in a nutshell, monetarily punishes these employees if they take any more than five sick days a year.

For at least 20 years, there have been huge problems with overcrowding in our provincial correctional facilities. Even the Auditor General acknowledges that many facilities are running at 135 per cent capacity. The result? High stress. Continual exposure to diseases. Daily assaults on staff. Combined with the deteriorating conditions in many of our provincial jails, the results are working conditions that are unimaginable to most Ontario workers.

For 20 years, successive governments have ignored the overcrowding, the exposure to diseases, the assaults and the mental stress endured by corrections workers. Yet the Premier feigns surprise that sick time is high.

The Premier now has the opportunity to tackle these problems. This is the time for positive action, not threats of punishment. Corrections workers are voting to reject the government’s punitive approach. And the bargaining team has already made plans to meet with the employer once the results are in.

Sick time won’t be the only item on the agenda. For Probation Officers, excessive caseloads continue to be ignored by the Ministry, leaving the public vulnerable. For the rest of the members in Corrections, there is little if nothing in the way of improvements for them.

This should be a no-brainer for McGuinty. In an unprecedented show of good-faith bargaining, the province has already reached a tentative agreement with the rest of the public service. Now, he just has to direct his staff to do the same with Corrections workers. There is no need for “knocking heads” in this case. There only needs to be a meeting of the minds.

Ontario’s Correctional Officers, Youth Workers, Probation Officers, Bailiffs, Recreation Officers, Rehabilitation Officers, Industrial Officers, Trades Instructors, Grounds/Maintenance Workers and Locksmiths, all members of the Corrections Bargaining Unit, have the experience, the knowledge and the solutions…if the government will listen.

Cooperation is the key to improving the working lives for the thousands of men and women who safeguard our facilities, our communities and the public, day in and day out. Correctional workers, whether in the institutions or in the communities, deserve better treatment. Dalton McGuinty owes them nothing less.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas


Where to go for election results.

ops_pluggedinAll the speeches and literature have led to this. Let the ballot counting begin. Check for the completed results .

Gord Longhi writes an open letter to the Premier

Mr. Dalton McGuinty, Premier

Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto , ON

Dear Mr. McGuinty,

I am writing to you as one of your 5500 plus Correctional Service employees represented by the Correctional Bargaining Unit within OPSEU. Among us are Correctional Officers, Youth Workers, Probation Officers, Probation and Parole Officers, Rehabilitation Officers, Recreation Officers, Bailiffs, Industrial Officers and Electronic Surveillance Officers.

Our Adult Facilities typically maintain custody of more than 8,000 offenders while youth facilities hold nearly 900 youthful offenders. Adult Probation and Parole Officers supervise between 56,000 and 60,000 Offenders in the Community while Youth Probation Officers supervise around 8,000 young persons.

We are a dedicated group of professional staff in the Institutions and Community Corrections Offices who provide a quality continuum of service to the offenders of Ontario while maintaining Public Safety for the citizens of this province.

The general public simply does not understand the environments that we work within. We supervise or detain criminal offenders who are often physically and verbally aggressive or violent. We are frequently the targets of threats and intimidation from these offenders or even the criminal gangs that some are associated with.

The stress and demands of the work takes a heavy toll on workers in the Correctional Services. It is often difficult to gain understanding and respect from the public or our employer for the unique and challenging work that we do in the Public Service. Particularly in our institutions where we are seeing the culmination of all the systemic problems creating sick-workplaces.

In a Ministry that has decommissioned so many institutions we see overcrowding as a serious problem at most institutions. The changing nature of the offenders and the problems with remand populations exacerbate the dangerous working conditions that already exist. Offender assaults on staff have become common place and post traumatic stress among staff is at an all time high.

In such a workplace environment that is consistently fraught with, anger, misery, hostility and despair is it any wonder that illness would be a symptom of all the systemic factors that exist? Volumes of contemporary occupational health research reflects that correctional officers suffer much greater incidence of illness and post traumatic stress disorder than almost any other profession.  How can you not see that this problem is far more than simply abuse and in fact a complex set of issues. A different sick plan may create some savings, however it will do nothing to address the real factors that are poisoning these workplaces.   It would be disheartening to think that the health and safety of your employees meant less than tight-fisted budget balancing.

In the community we have different but equally serious issues. Community Corrections staff are mandated with protecting the public, rehabilitating the offender and ensuring that their sentence is served. We are integral parts of the entire process an offender passes through from pre-trial to post sentencing. We work with offenders who are on probation, parole, conditional sentences or other community based correctional programs.

Our clients are individuals who run the gamut of being in trouble with the law. It can include the most serious sexual offenders, violent offenders, domestic assaults, mentally ill offenders, drug dealers and organized or criminal gang members. It can also be less serious offenders who need social adjustment or guidance and education.

In the community we also work with the victims of crime, the families of offenders, the courts, social and health agencies, the police and an array of other professionals in the correctional system.

PPOs and POs are highly trained professionals who strive to serve the public in both the adult and youth justice systems. With excessive workloads, we navigate a mountain of legislation, polices, procedures duties and responsibilities and try to utilize all the possible resources available to prevent an offender from returning to crime.

Community Corrections workers meet with our clients in our offices and sometimes in their homes. Some of these visits occur in rural areas with the nearest police agency a great distance away. Any day there is potential for violent episodes.

Officers deal with disturbing events, threats to persons, intimidation,  and even assaults. They are responsible for dealing with the perpetrators and victims of violent crime, sometimes heinous and repulsive acts. Often the emotional strain of dealing with these situations daily is transferred to the PPO or PO . Stress and burnout have become chronic ailments for our staff.

Community Corrections staff work under a magnifying glass where media, the public and sometimes our own employer are quick to blame when one of our offenders becomes infamous while under our supervision. Yet we are rarely credited for the good work that occurs.

It is time that the Probation Officers and Probation and Parole Officers receive the support respect and consideration that they should have as vital partners in the criminal justice system. As politicians push to hire more police, or build more prisons,
there also needs to be resources dedicated to hiring, training and assisting those women and men who deal with the aftermath of crime and punishment.

These changes are not just for the workers in the sector—though that should be justification in itself— but for the victims, the offenders and their families and for the protection of our communities.

Our Deputy Minister Jay hope recently sent a memo to our Corrections Division that spoke about a concept of TRC. He explained it as copied below:

“I believe that Transparency, Respect and Consistency (TRC) are key to sustaining organizational change and managing the tensions: Transparency-communicating what’s going on and why, Respect-correctional service workers recognized as equal partners with others in the justice sector, and Consistency-all Correctional Services Division (CSD) employees feeling that they work for one, unified organization.”

These words are indeed honorable and inspiring if they were matched with consistent action at all levels of our government. What I am getting at is that although I trust Mr. Hope is sincere, Mr. McKerlie and your bargaining team at the Corrections table is presenting an offer that diametrically opposed to any of the concepts that he has expressed.

Your bargaining team is knowingly presenting an offer that is so vastly unsuitable to either the institutional or community corrections staff that they are thereby provoking a strike that is completely unnecessary.

How can our Ministry or MGS reach a tentative agreement with OPPA that gives a 27.59% wage increase over 3 years and then offer the Corrections Division so much less, particularly the PPOs and POs who are offered even less than everyone else in the Ontario Public Service? How does that make us feel like equal partners in the justice sector? How is that respectful?

Trying to force Correctional Officers and Youth Workers to accept a privatized and inferior sick plan is tantamount to contravening the Ontario Human Rights Code. By discriminating against this small group of individuals based on their illness or disabilities (and hence sick time usage) your bargaining team is in violation of the OPS WDHP policies and the Ontario Human Rights Code. Discrimination and harassment should not be any more acceptable because it is disguised as “bargaining”.

I urge you intervene in the misguided process that your bargaining team has engaged in and have them return to the table in good faith and bargain a contract that truly respects all of the staff in your Corrections Division. Instead of approaching this in a way that perpetuates the unjustly negative stereotype of public service workers, present this as multi-faceted occupational health challenge that both the government and the Union will earnestly take on in an interest based fashion. We can fix this problem if we work together.

Your Corrections Division employees are dedicated professionals that are committed to delivering public safety. However we will reject this offer because it it is simply disrespectful. Please acknowledge our professionalism and commitment and bargain with us fairly. Let us continue to do our work and to keep our communities safe.


Gord Longhi

Corrections MERC P&P Rep

Probation/Parole Officer

*I would like to acknowledge NUPGE as a source for much of the information presented within this letter. *


Mr. Rick Bartolucci, Minister MCSCS

Mr. Jay Hope Deputy Minister, Corrections MCSCS

Mr. Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas, President, OPSEU

Mr. Ted McMeekin, Minister MGS

Mr. Ron McKerlie, Deputy Minister MGS

From the Toronto Jail/OPSEU Local 530 blog

opseukeysMr Renzini;

Today I was in your office along with our superintendent Pauline Jones discussing many of the very serious issues regarding our institution. I pointed out to you that on your computer screen was the local 530 website seeing as how you are a senior administrator at the Toronto Jail and in your office with you was the superintendent I have been led to believe that our website is a ministry approved website. I would like to thank you and Pauline for your continued support of the local website and keep up the anonymous comments there great.
J A Dvorak President Local530

This Contract has nothing for you, or me.


Attention all Bailiffs, Rehab Officers, Industrial Officers, Grounds/Maintenance Workers,
Recreational Officers, Trade Instructors, Locksmiths and Probation Officers:


In this employer offer, what will you get?
A 50-30 pension plan? IT DOESN’T APPLY TO YOU
An additional six per cent wage increase? IT DOESN’T APPLY TO YOU
Increases to On Call and Meal Allowance? IT RARELY APPLIES TO YOU
Increases for Schedule 6 overtime? YOU WILL RARELY GET IT
Rollovers for 250 unclassifieds? HALF OF WHAT WAS GOT LAST CONTRACT
More important, what WON’T you get?
NO improvement to severe workload issues
NO consideration for any special case wage adjustments
NO consideration for changes to Probation Officer wage grids
NO consideration for any Probation Officer demands
NO adjustments for recruitment and retention issues
NO improvements for employer-requested shift changes
Don’t let the employer split our unit. This is not about correctional officer and youth worker sick time. This is about dignity, respect and fairness for ALL members of the Corrections Bargaining Unit.


Support for Corrections from the President

OPSEU President Smokey Thomas

OPSEU President Smokey Thomas

There are tough jobs, and there are even tougher jobs: Imagine having to face a crowd of angry prison inmates every shift. Our sisters and brothers who work in the infectious, overcrowded and often dangerous provincial jails have our admiration and support. They perform a necessary public service under very stressful conditions. So when provincial government negotiators slap a major concession on the Corrections unit bargaining table, you can expect a strong negative reaction. The employer’s proposal would gut the sick leave provisions of the contract. It has all the earmarks of the typical ham-fisted jail management tactics we’d hoped were a thing of the past. It’s no surprise that our Corrections bargaining team has asked the membership for a solid rejection of the employer’s offer at the upcoming vote. You can be sure that if Corrections are forced to swallow these concessions, the rest of the Ontario Public Service won’t be far behind – likely in the next bargaining round. So while our teams have successfully negotiated solid agreements at the Unified and Central tables, the proposals on the Corrections table should be soundly rejected. Only a strong rejection vote will send the right message to the employer. That way, both sides can get back to the table and find a better and fairer solution. And if they are forced to take strike action – and I certainly hope it won’t get to that stage — they will certainly have our wholehearted support

In solidarity, Warren (Smokey) Thomas President