EDMONTON – A labour dispute involving hundreds of prison guards in Alberta is now into its third day.
A spokesman for the province’s justice minister says staff who walked off the job at 10 detention centres are engaging in “illegal strike action.”
Josh Stewart says all 10 centres have now been issued cease and desist orders from the province’s labour relations board, which yesterday declared walkouts at two facilities illegal.
He says no workers have been charged and no discussions have yet been planned with the union that has been supporting the employees.
The dispute was triggered by the suspension of an employee at the Edmonton Remand Centre who complained about safety issues.
Guards at several other detention centres walked off the job in protest and Guy Smith of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees has encouraged workers to “stand strong.”
He says it’s important to have concerns about working conditions addressed.
Inmates have been restricted to their jail cells and striking staff have been either replaced by municipal police or RCMP officers who are backing up correctional supervisors.
Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk has vowed that all legal means will be used to end the job action.
The guards’ union has said the suspension of the union member on Friday was the last straw for correctional officers who have complained about the design of the new Edmonton Remand Centre.
Just days before the jail opened, the AUPE said it found five pages of design flaws after touring the facility. At that time, the union asked the provincial government to delay the transfer of prisoners from the old remand centre until the changes were made.
Lukaszuk said the facility was deemed safe by occupational health and safety workers, which he noted were also members of the AUPE.
He said that if the guards have safety concerns, there are legal remedies that exist in their collective agreement.