About two dozen correctional officers demonstrated outside Dorchester Penitentiary on Tuesday, sharing information to members going into work on where negotiations stands on their bargaining agreement, which expired three years ago.
The union representing the more than 7,400 members across Canada wants the federal government to recognize what, they say, is an uncommon work environment.
“Correctional officers, we experience the highest rates of post-traumatic stress disorder than almost every occupation in the country,” said Jeff Wilkins, Atlantic president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.
“Our unique working conditions dictate a unique contract for us, so we shouldn’t be placed in the same box as all other public service.”
One reason they are demonstrating in New Brunswick is to convince the province to amend their workers compensation act to include correctional officers when it comes to PTSD.
“What that would mean is if somebody is diagnosed by their doctor as having PTSD that it would be automatically presumed to have occurred from their job, and covered by workplace insurance,” Wilkins said.
In New Brunswick, only paramedics, police officers and firefighters now have presumptive coverage, he said.
Along with monetary demands, one of the union’s main focus in these negotiations is correctional officers working conditions.
“Behind the walls we are the police, we are the firefighter, we are the paramedic, we are the first responders comparatively speaking, we compare with all of those occupations really,” Wilkins added.
To get their point across, the union has organised a nationwide protest on Tuesday, culminating with nearly 200 members demonstrating in front of the Treasury Board’s office in Ottawa.
“We have some members of the Ontario and Quebec regions participating in that,” he said. “It’s to bring awareness to the fact that the government is trying to put everybody into a package when it comes to negotiations, it’s not a one size fits all.”
A new negotiating session is scheduled with the Treasury Board on May 24, 25 and 26.