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Canada: More on MTC guard contract rejection.

Super jail guards reject MTC offer
Raymond Bowe
February 17, 2004

Local News - PENETANGUISHENE ó Super jail correctional workers rejected the parent corporation's second contract offer last Thursday, but the union says itís willing to come back to the bargaining table for a third round of negotiations.

While they are willing to continue collective bargaining, one guard, who is also a member of the negotiating team, said he was "insulted" by the latest contract offer.

"The employer doesn't seem to get it," said Sean Wilson, who added guards will not accept a "sub-standard" offer.

"That is an insult to our members, and should be an insult to every citizen in this area," Wilson added.

"(The guards) are not second-class workers, and this is not a second-class town," Wilson said.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) ó which represents 204 super jail guards ó voted 95 per cent against the recent contract offer, with more than 190 guards coming out for the vote in Midland.

Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) ó commonly known as the 'super jail' ó is Canada's first privately run prison, operated by Utah-based Management and Training Corporation (MTC).

MTC's negotiating team is determining what to do next.

"Where we are at right now is making arrangements for the negotiating team to make its next move," said super jail spokesperson Peter Mount.

Mount could not provide a time line for when that next move will happen.

"We take this situation seriously, and are addressing it right now," Mount said Friday.

OPSEU spokesperson Don Ford said Friday afternoon that MTC had agreed to return to the negotiating table Feb. 25 in Barrie.

"We are not pulling the trigger on a strike deadline yet," said Ford.

Union representatives maintain that they want wage parity with publicly operated prisons.

The second contract offer improved wages for guards, equaling those of guards at publicly run prisons, but super jail guards would not reach that level until Nov. 15, 2004, said OPSEU officials.

Improvements on vacation time were also offered, but would not be effective until 2006.

OPSEU officials say MTC still refuses to negotiate shift premiums, pregnancy and parental allowances or statutory holiday pay, all of which public jail guards receive.

"There were concessions on the wages, and they were almost there, but the employer is only offering a one-year deal," said Ford.

Ford said guards are "pretty firm and adamant" about what they want.

MTC's first contract offer was a three-year deal, Ford said, while the union was looking for a two-year pact.

"This isn't completely about money; a lot of it has to do with time off," said Ford.

For example, the pregnancy leave request represents less than one per cent of the total payroll, said Ford, "so we honestly don't know what (the sticking point) is.

"They have yet to say 'we can't afford it'," added Ford. "They are just saying they don't want to spend the money."

Prior to the second contract offer being put forward, Ford said the impression around the table was it was MTC's final contract offer, but added nothing firm has come forward on that front.

"They haven't pulled the trigger on a final contract offer," said Ford, adding they only get one shot at that method in order to force the bargaining team to take the contract back to its members for a final vote.

"They haven't played that card yet, and it would be silly if they did," Ford added.

In a news release, MTC officials say they are "disappointed" that the union rejected the second contract offer, which MTC thought was "reasonable," and provided "significant" wage increases.

OPSEU said its members have invited MTC representatives back to the bargaining table.

If an agreement canít be reached, the union will apply to the Ministry of Labour for a "no board report," which will begin the countdown towards a strike.

But Ford believes there is still hope on hammering out a deal.

Three weeks ago, guards voted more than 90 per cent in favour of striking if their demands are not met.

"We want to negotiate a collective agreement, not a strike," said Ford.

"It's time for this American company to realize Ontario taxpayers don't like their hard-earned money flowing south of the border, especially when that profit is made on the backs of Ontario workers."

Ford said the union has to apply for a 'no board report' before they can legally strike, or the employers can lock them out.

A no board report means a conciliators would not be able to break the stand-off.

"It's a signal that both sides can't come together on their own steam," said Ford.

It would take five days to process the report, said Ford, which begins a 17-day window towards a legal strike.

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