With a strike deadline only hours away, Ontario inked a new contract with its correctional workers that acquiesces to the union’s chief demand – that the 6,000 employees be designated an essential service.
The deal, struck at 4:20 a.m. on Saturday between Queen’s Park and the province’s correctional, probation and parole officers, also punts the union’s wage concerns to binding arbitration and defers talks regarding staffing issues to future meetings.
The essential-services title comes with potentially massive financial implications. In Ontario, essential-service workers, such as police and firefighters, don’t have the right to strike. Instead, outstanding issues between the union and the employer go to binding arbitration. The process has led to generous pay raises for many emergency-service workers, even in times of relative austerity in the province.