In January 2022, more than 600 federal Parole Officers signed an online petition directed at the Commissioner of Correctional Service Canada Anne Kelly asking her to investigate their unsustainable workloads. Frontline staff have for too long been faced with increasing surges in case management activities without any corresponding increase in human resources.
This petition sent a clear message to Commissioner Kelly that the status quo is not working for Parole Officers across this country and, moreover, that something must be done to create resourcing tools that ensure that caseloads are manageable and at the same time provide for the protection of Parole Officers health and wellbeing.
The Commissioner’s response to date has been lack lustre at best. The only plan presented thus far is to fall back on CSC’s initial plan to develop a resourcing tool for federal Institutions that mirrors the one developed for the Community and that has been in place for the past two decades. USJE has been clear that the Community Parole Officer Resource Formula has not been working for federal Parole Officers (USJE’s members) for many years now – and that this formula too requires an overhaul to ensure that Parole Officers are obtaining adequate time to complete the crucial public safety work assigned to them.
USJE calls for joint review
In April 2022, USJE National President, David Neufeld, visited Joyceville Institution alongside Commissioner Anne Kelly to speak directly with front line Parole Officers regarding the workload issues faced at this particular site. The Intake Assessment Unit at Joyceville Institution has been known to be a “pilot” for the past 6 years and has never been adequately reviewed for its workload implications within the Parole Officer group. During this meeting, Parole Officers shared their insights and considerable concerns about their high caseloads, condensed timelines to evaluate offender progress during the pandemic, and difficulties faced in conducting proper release planning.
USJE called for a Joint Review to examine the volume and complexity of the Parole work at Joyceville and demanded that more must be done to support the Parole Officers at Joyceville. Since this meeting, CSC has offered no indication that they are prepared to address the immediate and long-term concerns of our members or provided any follow-up.
It is important to understand that any progress to be made on the issue of Parole Officer workload is at a standstill at our federal Institutions, Community Parole Offices and the Community Correctional Centres across the country.
Your rights under the PA Collective Agreement
It is time that Parole Officers fully understand and act upon their rights under their current Collective Agreement, which requires working within the confines of such agreement. Without doing so, Parole Officers will continue to experience occupational stress injuries and burnout when facing unmanageable workloads.
The PA Collective Agreement is clear. Article 25.06 states the following:
Except as provided for in clauses 25.09, 25.10 and 25.11:
a. the normal workweek shall be thirty-seven decimal five (37.5) hours from Monday to Friday inclusive; and
b. the normal workday shall be seven decimal five (7.5) consecutive hours, exclusive of a lunch period, between the hours of 7 am and 6 pm.
In addition, the PA Collective Agreement states the following regarding overtime in Article 28.03:
a. An employee is entitled to overtime compensation under clauses 28.05 and 28.06 for each completed period of fifteen (15) minutes of overtime worked by him or her when:
i. the overtime work is authorized in advance by the Employer or is in accordance with standard operating instructions; and
ii. the employee does not control the duration of the overtime work.
b. Employees shall record starting and finishing times of overtime work in a form determined by the Employer.
c. For the purpose of avoiding the pyramiding of overtime, there shall be no duplication of overtime payments for the same hours worked.
d. Payments provided under the overtime, designated paid holidays and standby provisions of this agreement shall not be pyramided, that is, an employee shall not be compensated more than once for the same service.
It is important that Parole Officers begin to follow their Collective Agreement and request overtime if their caseload requires them to work more than 37.5 hours per week.
Article 28.08 states the following:
Compensation payment or leave with pay
a. Overtime shall be compensated with a payment, except that, upon request of an employee and with the approval of the Employer, overtime may be compensated in equivalent leave with pay.
b. The Employer shall endeavour to pay overtime compensation by the sixth (6th) week after which the employee submits the request for payment.
What scenarios could result in overtime?
Examples of scenarios that most likely could result in overtime for Parole Officers are:
Actions that require immediate attention/intervention by the Parole Officer:
- Late PBC decision generating release at the end of the day ;
- Suspension and/or arrest of an offender at the end of the day;
- Increased risk in the community or in a minimum security institution (breach of condition(s), collateral and/or professional intel, etc.);
- Emergency transfer or addition of urgent tasks occurring 48 hours before a PBC or Court hearing;
- Emergency transfer or addition of urgent tasks occurring within the week of the PBC cut-off (deadline);
- Supervision of offenders in the community which involved travelling long distances and may also include a significant number of supervision meetings;
Examples of scenarios that likely result in overtime:
- Co-worker(s) vacation period(s) require coverage as there is no back-fill ;
- Sudden absence of co-worker(s) results in direction to complete coverage tasks ;
- Abandoned caseload with actions that are directed to be covered ;
- Addition of non-standard tasks (ex many verifications in several files, case reviews etc) ;
Overtime request process
Parole Officers must always seek the approval of their supervisor for overtime in advance of performing such work. It is recommended that the request always be done in writing. If a supervisor refuses to approve the request for overtime, it is suggested that the Parole Officer request that the supervisor prioritize the work that must be completed within the 37.5 hours required in a given work week.
The prioritization of work should be documented in writing as well so that it can be referred to in the future should there be missed deadlines for reports or other missed activities.
This being said, the reality is that Parole Officers are consummate professionals who take great pride in their work – and that not being able to complete one’s work in a 37.5 hour work week can, in and of itself, be very stressful.
The time has come, however, for Parole Officers to stand up together and follow their Collective Agreement by requesting paid overtime. In doing so, CSC will have no choice but to account for the workload that Parole Officers are facing and not just count on federal Parole Officers (USJE’s members) to simply put in for compensatory time.
As we all know, compensatory leave (or time in lieu) only leaves more work for each Parole Officer to complete upon their return to the workplace. Unfortunately, it does not address the real issues that come with high, unmanageable workloads.
USJE is cognizant that asking its members to follow the Collective Agreement sounds like a simple response to CSC’s continued lack of urgency to address Parole Officer workload and resourcing. USJE recognizes that, in many workplaces across the country, there may be a reluctance to request/claim paid overtime. However, the purpose of seeking paid overtime is to put the accountability back on CSC for any timelines that federal Parole officers cannot meet and/or adherence to legislated deadlines etc. owing to unmanageable workloads.
By claiming overtime, federal Parole Officers diminish management’s ability to “divide and conquer” Parole Officers by means of having discussions about performance management plans and the “time management skills” of individual Parole Officers. Formal statements to management about the need for additional time to complete assigned tasks not only provides documentation of workload issues – but it opens the door to filing future grievances.
For the next six months, USJE will monitor all situations where Parole Officers have requested overtime and are being denied overtime pay by the employer. USJE believes that, if all Parole Officers request overtime pay when it is needed, this will help to demonstrate the ongoing story of high workload and the lack of resources being provided to the frontline who play a key role in keeping Canadians safe.
What can I do?
USJE requests the following:
- Each Parole Officer forward an email to their respective USJE Regional Vice-President when a request for overtime pay has been denied by their supervisor. Please include the number of hours requested.
The names of all USJE CSC RVPs can be found here.
- USJE CSC Regional Vice-Presidents will then forward the information to USJE National Office where a file will be maintained of all denied requests for overtime.
- USJE will regularly identify problem areas (sites) where overtime is not being approved and demonstrate where caseloads are not manageable. This will be shared through the Labour Management Consultation process with CSC. Through requests for overtime, USJE will have another tool to show that urgent action is needed to reduce caseloads for Parole Officers across the country and implement resource tools to properly fund this important public safety and reintegration work.
If you have any questions regarding the information provided above and/or the steps to requesting overtime from the employer, please speak to your respective USJE Regional Vice-President.