Updated: Alberta labour board orders striking jail staff to go back to work - Macleans.ca

Updated: Alberta labour board orders striking jail staff to go back to work


EDMONTON – The union representing Alberta’s jail guards says the labour board has ruled a strike by workers at some detention centres is illegal and has ordered them back to work.

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees spokesman Bill Dechant says the ruling applies to guards at the Edmonton Remand Centre and at a facility in Fort Saskatchewan.

Dechant says the union will be asking its members if they want to comply with the order.

It wasn’t immediately clear what would happen at the other facilities involved in the job action. Josh Stewart, a spokesman for the province’s solicitor general, said the labour board would discuss the situation at those other facilities later Saturday.

Several hundred members of various unions gathered outside the labour board’s offices in downtown Edmonton as the board members deliberated.

Many chanted, “Shame,” when they heard the ruling. Others called for a general strike.

“What happened in there is what we expected to happen. But that doesn’t make it any less shameful,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan told the crowd.

“These workers did the brave thing, they did the right thing, for demanding a safe workplace and for standing up for their fellow workers who were disciplined for having the audacity to demand a safe workplace.”

Workers at at least seven detention centres walked off the job in protest of the suspension of an employee at the Edmonton Remand Centre who complained about safety issues.

The Alberta government called the strike illegal and went to the labour board to order the employees back to work.

Inmates have been restricted to their cells and striking staff where either replaced by municipal police or RCMP officers along with correctional supervisors.

Stewart said there were no reports of incidents at any facilities overnight.

“There was no prisoner violence. They were in lockdown all night,” Stewart said.

The United Nurses of Alberta says a number of its members were ordered to remain inside the Edmonton Remand Centre overnight, and that they feared for their safety.

Heather Smith said that at 3 a.m., the nurses there were told by a supervisor to stay close to an escape route.

The labour board ruling also directed the guards’ union to tell its members to return to work.

Nancy Schlesinger, vice-chair of the labour board, noted that failure to follow the ruling could result in criminal prosecution.

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