National President David Neufeld and RVP Shauna Ward visit Saskatchewan Penitentiary and Regional Psychiatric Centre to support locals and hear their issues

National President David Neufeld visited Saskatchewan Penitentiary and the Regional Psychiatric Centre with Regional Vice-President (RVP) Shauna Ward. National President David Neufeld was in Saskatchewan to learn more about how USJE at the national and regional levels can better support the locals and to address workplace issues.

David and Shauna first stopped in Prince Albert on May 13, 2022, to have pizza lunch at a local hotel with members of Local 40023 Prince Albert Penitentiary. This meeting was arranged with the assistance of local Co-Presidents Jessica Diks and Christa Masko.

David engaged these members in a discussion about some of USJE’s current priorities, which includes advocating for hybrid working environments as part of the “new normal”. They also spoke about the union’s Presumptive Injury Campaign and improvements to communication at the national level with members.

David and Shauna also gave members updates on our CSC campaign centred on Food Officer Safety, and the Parole Officer Workload Campaign. David shared USJE’s plan to encourage parole officers to ask for paid overtime when they aren’t able to finish their work during normal working hours and to share with their Regional Vice-President incidents (in writing) when the employer denies overtime pay.

The members were very engaged, sharing their ongoing concerns about the Phoenix pay system, the lack of training for new staff (particularly the New Employee Orientation Program for tradespeople), and the heavy workload for Parole Officers and Managers, Assessment and Intervention (MAI). Members also asked for an update on the collective bargaining process and had questions about getting “pandemic pay”, which they would like to see as a demand in future rounds of collective bargaining.

Jess Diks, David Neufeld, Shawn Bird, Shauna Ward and Christa Masko

David and Shauna then went with Jessica and Christa to Saskatchewan Penitentiary, on the outskirts of Prince Albert, to meet with Warden Shawn Bird. They discussed the site-specific challenges the institution faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Warden Bird was engaging and appreciative of the work the staff had been doing throughout the pandemic. USJE emphasized the importance of management remaining flexible about telework in the future, and addressing issues around staffing, safety and training, including NEOP for tradespeople.

The two local co-presidents took David on a full tour of the penitentiary, while Shauna spoke to USJE members on shift.

Food Service Officers expressed their appreciation for USJE’s Food Service Officer Campaign. They identified a need to get more and better training, increased staffing and more security in the kitchen. They shared it was a priority to have a Correctional Officer permanently assigned to the kitchen, rather than the current situation where they got an occasional visit by an officer stationed down the hall.

Members working in the Heating Plant took David to the underground passageways (below the penitentiary) to see the confined spaces they often have to work in. It was evident that safety in these confined spaces is a concern and remains something that needs to be top of mind as our members perform this very important work.

The members on site were appreciative of the time spent with them and advised that they would appreciate another visit in the future.

The next day, David and Shauna visited the Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC) in Saskatoon, where they met with the Food Service Officers on shift. The members of Local 40170, which does not have an active local executive at the moment,gave a tour of the kitchen and spoke about their workplace concerns.

Members were pleased to hear the details of the Food Service Officer Campaign and indicated that issues around proper training, staffing and safety were big issues for them. Members also said they wanted two-way radios in the kitchen to increase their personal safety. Shauna advised that this will be raised at the Regional Labour Management Committee.

One of the aims of David’s local visits is to help build strong locals and to see what member issues can be brought forward to management. The USJE members at RPC are interested in getting their local up and running, and Shauna will help the members plan a meeting to fill local officer positions.

Follow National President David Neufeld’s work for USJE members in Ottawa and on the road.  Sign up to our newsletter, and follow USJE on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.