Monday, July 18 was a busy day for National President David Neufeld, as he visited and heard concerns from members at two Locals in New Brunswick — Miramichi RCMP Firearms and Atlantic Institution.
Joining him for both site visits were National Vice-President Lynette Robinson and Director of Labour Relations Rebecca Thompson.
Local 60001 President Caroline Morais Gregan welcomed the three representatives to Miramichi Firearms and gave them a tour of the facility. Along the way they had many conversations with Local members, who shared information about the processing backlog and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected overall operations.
They heard about the high rates of staff turnover during the pandemic and learned that many new members have since joined the department.
They met with Director Madeleine Doucet and learned that the department has increased its capacity and productivity in recent months. President Neufeld raised the issue of telework in the “new normal,” and emphasized that the union would like the process to be clear, transparent, flexible and fair.
Director Doucet indicated they will be working towards building this new normal in the coming months, and acknowledged that telework needs to be part of the plan if they are to become an employer of choice.
President Neufeld and Vice-President Robinson pointed out the benefits of including local and regional representatives in the development of the new normal, to ensure that it not only meets the needs of the organization, but also those of our members.
The second visit of the day was with USJE members at Atlantic Institution (Local 60019 Atlantic Pen). President Neufeld was joined for this visit by CSC Atlantic Regional Vice-President Laurie Ann Wesselby and Local 60019 President Nathalie Mintsa.
The tour involved a dynamic discussion with Food Services Officers (FOS) in the kitchen, where President Neufeld and RVP Wesselby shared details about our FOS campaign. The campaign highlights the safety issues faced by kitchen workers who may work side by side with inmates, yet don’t have access to adequate safety training.
The members agreed that training, staffing and dealing with broken equipment were top issues for them. President Neufeld said it was a pleasure to meet with all of the FOS members on shift, and to hear about the workplace challenges they have faced during the pandemic.
The site visit also provided an opportunity to meet with members who work in education and programming. It became clear that for members working in these areas, the pandemic has made it difficult to meet correctional program objectives with the number of outbreaks occurring both in the units and in the Structured Interventions Unit.
President Neufeld said it was encouraging to see the pride that members expressed in their work, and to hear how they contribute to preparing offenders for release back into the community. One thing that stood out for him in this portion of the tour was the inability of our members to have enough space to meet with offenders in smaller groups, due to the needs around social distancing and managing COVID in the institution.
USJE applauds our members at both of these sites for the incredible work they do, and for their ongoing contributions to keeping Canadians safe.