Prison union wants raise

Eric Sparling
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MP: fair deal needed for workers, taxpayers

Corrections officers from Springhill Institution staked out across from MP Scott Armstrong’s office in Amherst on Wednesday over lunch. The union has a number of bones to pick with the federal government, and has been invited back to the bargaining table by the Treasury Board. 

AMHERST – It’s a different world inside, and corrections officers want higher pay to police it.

“We’re in front of the local MP’s office,” said Doug White, regional president of the union representing Springhill Institution’s officers.

UCCO/SACC/CSN Springhill Local held an information event Wednesday over lunch in the parking area on Church Street in Amherst, across from Scott Armstrong’s office. Just before noon a barbecue was turning out food – available for a donation, with the plan being to give the proceeds later to a barbecue outside First Baptist Church – while across the street, in Armstrong’s office, the MP was absent but expected later.

White listed a number of issues, one of which was pay.

“We’ve been three years without a contract,” said White.

The pay discrepancy between RCMP and corrections officers in 2006 was less than six-per cent, according to White, but that gap has grown to 13 per cent. Successive Conservative governments have “absolutely” been bad for their wages, according to White.

The union leader also took issue with comments he attributed to Tony Clement, claiming the president of the Treasury Board expressed regret in May for not making more cuts to the civil service.

Sick leave is another point of contention. White claimed the government wants to take away sick leave for officers and replace it with short-term disability. Also, he said, the government wants to change what it provides in severance pay.

The job has changed, too, he said.

Budgets have been cut by $250 million, he argued, at the same time as the government has committed to getting tougher on crime. Overcrowding is a problem. He said programming and employment for inmates has diminished, and offenders are just being warehoused.

“They’re not rehabilitated,” he said.

As for the practice of double-bunking, “It’s more dangerous for us,” he said.

White said his members provide a valuable service to the public.

“Walk a mile in our range boots,” said Dave Harrison, the local union president, when asked how he would respond to citizens who take issue with civil servants asking for more pay.

A correctional facility is like a little city, according to Harrison, but a little city with an above-average number of tough bad guys.

Scott Armstrong, MP for Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Harbour, was reached by phone later in the day.

“I think they do a very valuable job…,” said Armstrong, who has two federal institutions in his riding.

The MP said it wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss details of contracts when the union has been invited back to the bargaining table by the Treasury Board. But he said contracts are a balancing act, needing to be fair to the union and fair to taxpayers. He said the treasury board is trying to make civil servant compensation more reflective of what taxpayers can afford and what the private sector offers, and that the government is moving forward in its commitment to balance the budget by 2015 in part by looking for efficiencies within systems.

He called the government’s tough on crime agenda “very successful,” claiming it hasn’t seen a large increase in inmate numbers but has seen a reduction in revolving doors for prisoners who should be behind bars.

“It’s a tough job,” said the MP of the work performed by correction officers.

Armstrong said he had a very positive discussion Wednesday with White and two local union members.


Organizations: Springhill Institution, Treasury Board, First Baptist Church RCMP

Geographic location: AMHERST, Church Street

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Recent comments

  • jr
    July 16, 2013 - 08:20

    I know a number of guards and with the overtime, they make over $90,000. They told me that they make at least 70 without overtime and I am wondering why they are being comapred to RCMP officers? These are correction officers, not RCMP. They did not take the same training as RCMP members and in my mind are not and should not be entitled to the same. It does state in the article that they are comparing thier wage to the other.

  • mike
    July 12, 2013 - 13:44

    Bill, your 8 friends are fibbers .

  • Supporter
    July 11, 2013 - 18:07

    Bill your facts are incorrect In fact they are fiction. and if you make $30.000 a year and don't have a pension that you may want to think about YOUR future and improve it which is what these Corrections Officers are trying to do. Have you had a raise in the last 3.5 years? well they haven't!

  • Bill
    July 11, 2013 - 18:00

    From the 8 prison guards I know. Do you want their names?????

  • Sophie
    July 11, 2013 - 16:45

    90,000 a year and a big pension? What are you talking about? Do some research before submitting your next comment. I dont know anyone in the service who makes that much.

  • Bill
    July 10, 2013 - 21:58

    $90.000 a year or more with a big pension is not enough. My job is one third of that with no pension!!!!!

    • Andrea
      July 11, 2013 - 16:44

      Bill-Not sure where you got your facts on salary, but you are incorrect.