January 6, 2016 2:08 pm

Union wants safety of non-guard jail workers guaranteed in the event of a strike

Collins Bay Institution in Kingston, Ont., on Oct. 1, 2015.

THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg
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TORONTO – Ontario’s public service union is asking the deputy premier to guarantee the safety of nurses and other Ontario jail employees in the event of a strike.

Jail guards and probation officers will be in a legal strike position at 12:01 a.m. Sunday and the government plans to bring in managers from different civil service departments to run the jails if a strike occurs.

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Other jail staff such as nurses, maintenance workers and kitchen staff are covered under a different bargaining unit, which has reached a contract, and therefore they will be expected to show up for work.

But Smokey Thomas, the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, is worried that the public service managers won’t be able to control the institutions as well as correctional workers, which would jeopardize the safety of the other jail staff.

He wrote a letter to Deb Matthews, deputy premier and the minister responsible for public-sector bargaining, asking her to guarantee in writing that those workers will be at no increased risk of harm during a strike.

Her office issued a statement nearly identical to lines from a statement it released Tuesday, but added that managers have received “comprehensive training” to prepare them to work in the jails and that the government is “confident” staff and inmates will remain safe and secure.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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