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For-profit getting money for striking workers?

Private jail operator getting workers' wages during strike
Employees off job since April but provincial funding still flowing to Kinark

Toronto - About 20 members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE), on strike at the Syl Apps facility for young offenders in Oakville since April 15, took their issues to the Ontario legislature Thursday.

The strikers met with members of the NDP caucus to raise concerns over the eight-week disruption at the 80-bed secure custody facility, which houses some of the province’s most disturbed young people.

Even though the 145 unionized employees have been off the payroll since mid-April, the Ontario government continues to pay money for their salaries to Kinark, the private company brought in by the former Conservative government to operate the facility.

“Where is that money going, now that the employees are not there?” asks OPSEU President Leah Casselman, who worked at Syl Apps before she became head of OPSEU, which represents 100,000 members. “Basic accountability for public dollars should ensure that Kinark doesn’t make a windfall profit by forcing a labour disruption.”

Syl Apps is a detention and treatment facility housing psychiatrically disturbed adolescents and young offenders whose crimes include armed robbery, sexual assault and murder.

Key issues in dispute are health and safety, slashed sick time, concession demands around Workers Safety and Insurance Board issues, and wages. Staffing levels have been cut and the emergency response team is in jeopardy.

Employees have rejected a one-year contract "offer" that contains no wage increase. Meanwhile, Kinark’s executive director at Syl Apps has received an increase of $37,600.

Since the start of bargaining, Kinark has frustrated efforts to resolve contract issues. No talks are currently taking place or scheduled.

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