SPRINGHILL – Corrections officers at Springhill Institution held what they called an ‘information picket’ Wednesday to protest management at the facility. They contend administrators are too eager to find fault with corrections officers.
“Overzealous managers are poisoning the workplace with frivolous disciplinary procedures,” claimed a written statement the union prepared.
The result is a more stressful work environment and increased danger to the public, according to Doug White, Atlantic regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCOO).
“Springhill leads the region for staff assaults,” said White.
The risk of being attacked by inmates is part of the job.
“We accept that,” said White.
What he and his fellow union members find unacceptable, though, is an employee disciplinary system they claim doesn’t have sufficient independence from management.
White detailed a recent incident in which two of his members were disciplined. The same manager that launched the complaint also heard the testimony of the employees and decided their punishment, he alleged. When a grievance was launched, the same official was the first level of contact, said the union official.
Perhaps compounding the dissatisfaction, White contended the incident in question shouldn’t have resulted in disciplinary action in the first place. He described a scenario where officers used their judgment to determine a secure vehicle should be used to transport a prisoner (they had previously been told not to use the vehicle, according to White, however that was before their superior knew a prisoner would need to be moved).
White gave another description – an incident that occurred the morning of the protest: an officer refused to transport a prisoner to a (non-emergency) doctor’s appointment because of poor driving conditions and, as a result, was threatened with disciplinary action.
The regional president said Springhill has had more disciplinary investigations in recent years than all the other penitentiaries in the Atlantic region combined.
An out-of-province union official, Lyle Stewart, said about 75 people attended the picket, which began at 7 a.m. but then moved to the Dr. Carson and Marion Murray Community Centre around 9 a.m. due to weather conditions. Stewart said the rally, which would run through into the evening, would build solidarity. Representatives from all five institutions were in attendance.
Stewart said an environment in which officers are worried about being brought up on minor infractions is one in which officers may question their own judgment and hesitate before acting – a hesitation that may put people at risk.
The Correctional Service of Canada declined to comment.