National President visits Dorchester Minimum Institution

On November 30, Regional Vice-President, Laurie Ann Wesselby and Local President, Heather Reid welcomed the National President, David Neufeld, to Dorchester Minimum Institution (Local 60128) in Dorchester, NB, for a site visit.  This was President Neufeld’s first visit to the site.

Local President, Heather Reid discussed the challenges of local engagement within the union as many of her executive members have moved to other departments outside the Institution and CSC.

Discussions also centered on the recent PSAC General Strike and how members responded to the strike at the Dorchester Complex.

The representatives then met with several members in the AWMS department and discussed USJE’s Presumptive Injury Campaign and the tabling of Bill C-357 in Canada’s House of Commons in September 2023.  The members were interested to hear how this legislation has the potential to change the definition of public safety personnel and to extend presumptive injury coverage to more members under the Government Employee Compensation Act.  Members raised concerns about operational stress injuries experienced in the workplace and how they felt it was important for our members to receive presumptive coverage for the difficult work they do on behalf of the Canadian public in Canada’s federal prison system.

President Neufeld spoke about the USJE Triennial Convention in July 2023 and how USJE has now established a National Strike Fund for its members.  President Neufeld also inquired about the approval process for telework at the site and whether members were having their telework requests approved.  For the most part, members reported that they were being given 1 day of telework per week.  President Neufeld shared information regarding USJE’s work on the Letter of Agreement on Telework and the purpose of the Joint Panel in the grievance process.  The members were told that USJE will continue to advocate for a nuanced approach to telework for all USJE members across the country.

Several members also raised concerns regarding workload levels and how they felt it was important for the site to increase resource levels.  Issues around mental health and wellbeing were also topics that were raised by members and how increasing workloads were negatively affecting their health.

The union representatives then visited I-block, which is the main building for the interventions team.  The representatives spoke to several members in the different case management groups.

Finally, the representatives toured the Regional Food Production Centre (RFPC) and the small group feeding program (SGMP) which is housed in the same building.  The representatives were informed that there are 43 living units at the site and that the inmates are issued groceries based on a daily per diem from the SGMP side in food services.  The challenges with costing of food and storage at the units was a topic that was raised and discussed by the members.  President Neufeld and RVP Wesselby shared the progress made under USJE’s Food Services Campaign and the three top priorities of the campaign:  FOS training, a review of the staffing model and the need to have kitchen equipment fixed on a timely basis.  The Food Service Officers expressed their appreciation for the support and the ongoing advocacy on issues related to kitchen staff safety and production.

National President Neufeld was encouraged by the level of engagement during the visit and hopes to visit Dorchester Medium Institution in 2024.