Correctional Officers Rally At EMDC

Correctional Officers rally outside the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre. January 5, 2015. Photo by Ashton Patis.

As the province and the union representing thousands of correctional officers across Ontario return to the bargaining table, workers are setting up picket lines outside of the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre in London.

The move is in protest of the province’s proposed changes to Workplace Safety and Insurance Board benefits and vacation time for correctional officers.

“Any given day, I can go into work and be criminally charged, I can be injured and I can be fired as well. So basically, you’ve got a situation where several bad things can happen to you flowing from one incident,” says OPSEU Local 108 President Domenic Bragaglia. “It’s just too much risk, there’s just so much risk in trying to do your job honestly. It all depends on what the camera says, and what somebody in a suit viewing that tape says as to whether you have a job.”

The contract between the Ministry of Correctional Services and OPSEU workers expired on December 31, 2014.

“It’s just bad all the way around,” notes Bragaglia. “It’s not bargaining, it’s just dictating.”

He tells correctional officers simply want safer working conditions, fair wages, clear standing orders and job security.

In early September of 2014 six staff members at EMDC, all of various ranks, were fired in connection to how the beating death of Adam Kargus was handled. Kargus was killed inside his cell on October 31, 2013. His cellmate faces a charge of second-degree murder in connection to his death. Two corrections officers and one manager at the jail face criminal charges of failing to provide the necessaries of life in connection to the incident. All of those cases remain before the courts.

New working orders were drafted by the province in the fall following a six day lockdown at EMDC in wake of the firings, but officials within the jail say training and the implementation of the new rules is not going smoothly.

Inmates at the facility are constantly on lockdown due to understaffing, overcrowding and violence.

The 250 correctional officers at EMDC, along with thousands across the province, are threatening strike action if the two sides cannot come to an agreement on a new contract.