REGINA – Re-train for a new position or be out of a job: those are the two options facing 62 kitchen staff following the province’s move to contract out food services at eight correctional facilities in Saskatchewan.
“They’ve committed their careers and livelihoods to providing this service and the government is letting them down,” said Bob Bymoen, the president of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union.
Compass Group Canada will serve inmates beginning in November, a decision Corrections Minister Christine Tell said is expected to save the government $12 million over a five year contract.
“This will ensure consistency on nutritional values, on actual delivery of food throughout our correctional facilities. We currently don’t have that,” Tell said.
The plan is to reinvest the savings into inmate programs and programs to keep people out of prison in the first place.
However, Bymoen is skeptical and points to the fact that Compass Group provides food services to facilities in Alberta and BC at a cost around 40 per cent higher than Saskatchewan.
“It’s totally politically driven,” he added. “There is no business case for it and I demand the government put the business case on the table.”
The provincial opposition is also critical of the food service changes.
NDP corrections critic John Nilson wants the government to be more transparent about its motivation behind choosing a company based out of the UK, but with offices in Canada.
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“If it’s a straight ideological decision, they want to privatize these things, then tell us that and then we’ll let the public judge them.”
However, the province avoided using the term privatize when speaking to reporters Wednesday.
“We’re contracting out that food service within our correctional facilities,” explained Tell.
Bymoen stressed that regardless what you call it, there’s bigger fish to fry with things like overcrowding and staff safety in facilities across the province.
“Privatizing the kitchen does nothing to fix those issues.”
The government adds that inmate’s dietary needs will continue to be met with the changes and they shouldn’t notice a difference in the service.