The will of our members is clear: closing three important institutions without a viable plan is a serious error that must be corrected.
During a series of seven special general assemblies, members at Kingston Penitentiary, the Ontario Regional Treatment Centre and Leclerc Institution said they wanted to fight the government’s decision to close these facilities in 18 months. And fight we will.
With the solidarity and participation of our 7,500 members across Canada, we will go to the public to warn of the unacceptable risks they will face because of this reckless and dangerous decision.
We will seek allies at the political level, of like-minded unions and among community organizations. And we will use every means at our disposal to convince the Conservative government that, this time, they have gone too far, too fast.
The leadership of UCCO-SACC-CSN was quick to react when Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced this plan on April 19. The national president and the regional presidents of Ontario and Quebec were able to reach a national audience in the media coverage that followed the minister’s press conference.
We hit the ground running, with information pickets at KP/RTC and Leclerc. Furthermore, we quickly organized local general assemblies and created a regional solidarity. Now, with the solid backing of our members, the local union leadership at these three institutions and the CSN, we will dig in for a long battle that goes national today. We won’t be alone. Many other organizations and public figures have already contacted the union to express their solidarity and ask how they can help.
Our members understand what’s at stake. The inmate population of these three institutions will not be easily or safely absorbed at other sites. Dangerous inmates will be given lower security classifications and many others will be double-bunked with violent consequences. For CSC, this practice of refusing to consult the front-line professionals of our federal penitentiaries will lead to a multitude of problems. A carefully constructed relationship with CSC management, built up over the course of a decade, has been seriously jeopardized.
In the days since the announcement, it has become clearer that the impacts on our 600 members at these three institutions will be much greater than Minister Toews has let on. Although CSC management has not shared reliable estimates, it is expected that a very large number of officers will have to move out of region to maintain their employment. Officers across the country will feel the ripple effects. This is a traumatic event for many who passed much of their careers serving and protecting the Canadian public at these valuable institutions.
On every level, this decision is disastrous.
We don’t believe it will save money for the government in the long term.
And don’t forget: at the end of this month, it will have been two years since our collective agreement expired. We were already nearing the end of our patience when we learned of this highly questionable decision by CSC and the government.
This is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
And so we call on our members: prepare for battle.