Approximately 200 correctional officers gathered in front of Justin Trudeau’s Montréal office this morning to protest the Liberal government’s refusal to pay them the COVID-19 premium, even though they have been dramatically affected by the pandemic. A giant 20’ x 30’ banner was unfurled before Trudeau’s Papineau constituency office.“Since the pandemic broke out, nearly 500 correctional officers across Canada have tested positive for COVID-19,” said Frédérick Lebeau, Québec Region President of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers–CSN. “We have been the hardest hit group among federal employees, by far.”
Correctional officers have no choice but to show up for work at pentientiaries that are still COVID hot spots. Working from home is not an option for the employees who guard the country’s most dangerous prison populations.
“In Canada, essential workers who had to stay on the job and risk exposure to the virus have been paid risk premiums, and rightly so,” said Lebeau. “Provincial correctional officers in Ontario, B.C. and other provinces are receiving a premium. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces who had to work in long-term care facilities were paid an allowance. And for us? Nothing.”
“The irony is that many of the premiums paid by the provinces are subidized by the federal government to help the provinces fight the pandemic.”
UCCO-SACC-CSN, which represents the 7,300 correctional officers at Canada’s 49 federal penitenciaries, has already met with Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos about this issue. “Today, we are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,” said Lebeau. “There’s still time to correct this mistake. We are asking the federal government to recognize federal correctional officers as the essential workers that we are. It must show respect for the workers who have made the greatest sacrifices to protect Canadians.”