Last week, your union's senior leadership – represented by Component 1 Vice President Dean Purdy, BCGEU President Stephanie Smith and Component 1 Executive First Vice Chair Ira Kibbe – met with B.C.'s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.
During the meeting, our union raised several key issues with the Minister, including safety, recruitment and retention. Other priority issues included discussions about the plans to support the success of government's Safer Communities Action Plan (SCAP) and the Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative (ReVOII).
As you may recall, last November B.C. Premier David Eby announced the Safer Communities Action Plan (SCAP). Part of this plan included a commitment to tackle repeat violent offending. The Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative (ReVOII) was developed as part of that commitment.
These reforms will not just result in an increase in the inmate population in B.C.'s adult correctional centres, but an increase in the proportion of those inmates who are repeat and violent offenders.
That means that BCGEU corrections officers are a central component of SCAP and ReVOII. Because of this, our union stressed to the Minister that the ongoing staffing crisis in adult corrections represents a legitimate threat to the success of SCAP in general and ReVOII in particular.
As you know, recruitment and retention of correctional officers has been a key bargaining issue for several rounds of public service bargaining. And while significant progress has been made such that B.C.'s corrections officers are ahead of their provincial and federal counterparts in terms of wages, overall compensation and benefits, recruitment remains a substantial challenge and attrition remains unsustainably high.
While B.C. correctional officers are well-compensated compared to their peers, the salary differential between corrections and policing is significant. As a result, we see that this wage disparity hampers recruitment efforts. We also raised that TMA's and the new bonus are not something our members can take to their banks to take out a mortgage, for instance; we need to move them into hard grids.
One solution we offered was the extended work week. The increased hours would narrow the gap with law enforcement agencies that work 40 hours/week, therefore reducing the draw of other law enforcement jobs for current correctional officers while also potentially making the correctional service an attractive option for employees of other law enforcement agencies seeking new career opportunities. The Minister said this solution was on his radar and ministry staff will be exploring it.
Minister Farnworth acknowledged the growing recruitment and retention problems and their impacts and he recognized the need to better understand specific pressures in order to address them.
Purdy also pointed out that there are serious concerns from our members over the inmate disciplinary process, especially how Corrections Adjudicators are inconsistent in their decisions and often take the word of an inmate over that of a sworn Peace Officer when hearing evidence.
Overall, we feel that this meeting was positive and that the issues we raised were accepted as requiring continued attention. We offered the Minister concrete solutions on how we can improve the working conditions for you and at the same time improve the delivery of public services. Our union will continue to press government to move these issues forward and to continue working with the Minister and ministry staff to make these critical improvements.
We will continue to keep you updated.
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