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Jail, union at odds over newsletter distribution

Janis Leering
The Mirror
Jun. 18, 2003

An employee at the Penetanguishene jail has been told to stop handing out union material at work and was threatened with possible dismissal.

Don Ford, communications at OPSEU head office, said the jail's union president was given a letter on June 5 which said he could be fired after handing out union newsletters.

"Doug Thomson, facility administrator (at the Central North Correctional Centre) threatened Dwight Stoneman with discipline, up to and including dismissal, if he did not cease and desist distributing union-related information at the jail," said Ford.

The letter said employees need management approval before distributing or posting materials at work, and the Bargaining Bites newsletter from OPSEU is included in that.

"We are finding this hard to understand, because this was union information for people in the union at the jail."

But Ford said Stoneman could be fired, even if he belongs to the union.

Ford said the jail is calling the newsletter "non-work-related materials," which is why it is not permitted inside.

Mike Mously, deputy of operations at the jail, said the reason administration wants to approve materials before they are distributed in the jail, is to ensure they are appropriate.

"These rules have been in place since we started operating, and it is to control what the inmates have access to," said Mously. "They also must be reviewed for harassment or discrimination, to make sure it is appropriate for the employees."

Mously said the documents must be specific to work, and must not cause any concern if they were to land in the hands of an inmate.

He said the jail has specific bulletin boards to post material, and there is some union material hanging up.

"We have our own staff newsletter, and there is also union information about health and safety posted."

But Ford believes handing out union material should be considered work-related, since correctional officers at the jail voted in favour of a union in September.

"The rules are different if we are trying to organize in a non-union group because we can't do it at the place of work."

The Bargaining Bites newsletter, for correctional officers at the jail, has been distributed once a week for the past few months.

Union employees at the jail are still bargaining their first contract, and Ford said the union will continue to put out the newsletter.

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