From the February edition of the Hamilton Partisan:
On January 9th, Ontario’s jail guards rejected the decision to go on strike in favour of a deal which classifies their work as an essential service. This decision was made hours before the strike deadline scheduled for 12:01 AM of the 10th. This has been a ‘great victory’ for those employed in the industry of repressing the fallout of Canada’s decaying capitalist system.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) which represents roughly 6,000 probation officers and guards was responsible for averting this possible ‘crisis’ by agreeing to the province’s move towards the classification their jobs as an “essential service” – a legislative category which outlaws the possibility of going on strike. A closer look at the situation reveals a reality which is quite the opposite of the fear mongering projected by the main stream media.
Along with being considered an essential service, jail guards and probation officers are scheduled to having their pay rates increased to that of police officers. This change should be seen as a major cause of concern as it raises the possibility of having many of the ‘benefits’ of being a police officer. For instance, it is well known that police officers are routinely suspended with pay for outrageous infractions. In other words, this new labour relation with guards and probation officers is a move which will benefit their narrow interests at the expenses of Ontario’s working class.
In anticipation of the possibility of a strike the government relocated staff and inmates of some of Ontario’s jails. This situation resulted in an added bonus for the guards who were relocated and were not expected to perform any serious duties due to being unfamiliar with their new placement. This lax work situation was not the only bonus gained by guards, they were also granted a high pay with guaranteed plenty of hours and paid travel time amounting to 15 hours a week.
Dan Wardell, president of OPSEU Local 247 of Brantford’s jail commented that guards temporarily transferred from Brantford to Hamilton “…ended up just job shadowing, and just sitting around – more or less in the way of the correctional staff down there”.
This temporary bonus was also cashed in by correctional managers whom were employed as a contingency plan by the Ontario government to operate jails in case of a strike. This bonus took on the form of extended stays for many correctional managers who collected hours, sometimes clocking in 24 hour shifts – for many days, after the potential strike was averted. Even more, these correctional managers were being paid far more than what they regularly earned.
Although the police, jail guards and the like appear to exist for the service and protection of society. They in fact exist to maintain the necessary conditions that allow the further exploitation of the working class. This is especially true if one considers that most ‘offenders’ are not motivated by an anti-social streak but by economic necessities which inherently clashes with the ‘laws’ which are setup to maintain the conditions that benefit the rich.
The winners in this situation are clearly the guards, parole officers, correctional managers and their friends in government who ‘cooperated’ and ultimately benefited from this whole charade. This of course was at the expense of Ontario’s working class, and the inmates whom endured an even greater level of dehumanization.