On December 5, 2023, Regional Vice-President, Laurie Ann Wesselby and local Treasurer, Cindy Kormish, welcomed USJE National President, David Neufeld, to Springhill Institution (Local 80025) for a site visit. This was President Neufeld’s first visit to Springhill Institution.
President Neufeld was provided an extensive tour of the institution which began with a visit with the Correctional Program Officer group. The members came prepared with many questions for the USJE representatives that centered on hybrid work, health and safety issues in the institution, workload and the increased presence of drugs and drug use in the institution. A major area of discussion centered on past collective bargaining results and what Correctional Program Officers can do to address their specific issues in future rounds of bargaining. President Neufeld spent time explaining the collective bargaining process and what occurs at USJE’s Regional bargaining conferences. He encouraged the members to become more involved in the union.
President Neufeld also provided details around USJE’s Presumptive Injury Campaign and how the current research work of Rose Ricciardelli will be used to address the working conditions of Correctional Program Officers in the future.
The strike of April 2023 was also discussed, as was the passing of USJE’s National Strike fund at the USJE Triennial Convention in July 2023. The resolution called for an increase of dues of $5.00 per member per month to establish this fund that will provide a $50 per day increase to current strike pay levels.
The tour then led to the kitchen to visit the Food Service Officers (FOS). President Neufeld shared information regarding the ongoing Food Service Officer Campaign that is advocating for more training for FOS members, a review of the staffing model and a call to have kitchen equipment fixed in a timely manner. The FOS members highlighted the need for more classroom training, more FOS members in the kitchen and confirmed issues around kitchen equipment needing repair. The FOS members identified concerns around the inmate per diem, food costing and overall kitchen safety. The members were reminded of the importance of raising these issues at the lowest possible level and to bring them to the local Occupational Health and Safety Committee.
The last portion of the visit led to a unit where the representatives heard directly from some Institutional Parole Officers (IPOs). The IPOs had carefully prepared for the visit and listed the many ongoing concerns they IPOs were experiencing at the site. This included ongoing high workload levels, the need for increased staffing, backfill for training, the addition of duties (ie. assisting inmates obtain birth certificates) and burnout/operational stress injuries. President Neufeld provided an update on the work being done around the Letter of Agreement on Parole Officer Workload and identified that this is a key priority within the Service. It is believed that this workload review will begin in early 2024 and will eventually result in establishing workloads that are manageable and provide a healthier workplace for Parole Officers.
It was pointed out that experienced Parole Officers at the site have been actively involved in peer mentorship but are finding it more difficult to do with the high workload levels they are facing. The members expressed their true appreciation for USJE’s work on the Presumptive Injury Campaign and identified that this is a real need that must be addressed if Parole Officers are going to be able to deal with the ongoing stresses of the job.
President Neufeld and RVP Wesselby made a commitment to try and address the many issues and concerns raised through the course of this visit at a future Local Labour Management meeting via the Local. RVP Wesselby will be working with the local to organize the agenda submissions and focusing on gaining greater membership engagement at the site.
President Neufeld and RVP Wesselby would like to thank the Warden, Jesse Welner, for meeting with them and to begin some needed discussions on issues raised during this visit. RVP Wesselby will continue to follow up on the concerns raised by the membership with the local and with Mr. Welner.