Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 678 President Janice Zultek and Local 601 President Dennis Ginter, along with a slew of other OPSEU representatives, marched from the courthouse to the office of Sault MPP David Orazietti today.
They were expressing concern over current contract negotiations.
The corrections division of the Ontario public service rejected the Ontario government's proposed contract in January of this year.
Because the province is claiming that corrections workers and youth workers abuse their sick-time benefits.
It's proposing to remove only those two groups from that part of the collective agreement.
Sick-time benefits would then be managed by a private insurance company.
As a correctional officer for the past 22 years, Zultek has experienced first-hand the difficulties faced by workers in her field.
"We work in an environment that is not particularly healthy and often people get hurt," Zultek told SooToday.com. "Part of our job often involves using force and injuries result. Sometimes the incidents can be very traumatizing and we have several members that get diagnosed with post trauma. The goal is always for people to get back to work, of course. But they need time."
Currently, OPS workers are allowed 130 sick days per year.
Six of those days are regular sick days, where the employee receives 100 per cent of his or her regular pay.
The remaining 124 days are allotted for short-term sickness, during which the employee would be paid 75 per cent of regular pay.
Today's demonstrators want the sick-time contract provision to remain as it is and not be privatized.
Ontario's correctional and youth worker absenteeism due to illness or injury is not out of line with the rest of Canada or the United States, said Zultek.
"When the auditor general comes out with a statistic that says we all take 32 sick days a year, that's not true," she said. "Statistics can be manipulated in a wide variety of ways. What we're saying is: 'Yes our sick time is higher. Here's some of the reasons why. We want you, the employer, to work with us so that we can make our workplace healthier and safer. And when people do end up having serious health problems because of the job, what can you as an employer do to help us?'"
Glinter added: "When you work in a normal work environment, you shouldn't abuse sick time. When you work in an abnormal working environment, sick time shouldn't be viewed as abuse."
"[Orazietti] has said he will do for us what he can, and I believe him," Glinter continued. "We're here reminding him that bargaining has been going on since January 1st, and we'd like a fair and just contract. We're hoping he'll contact the ninister of corrections, [Sudbury MPP Rick] Bartolucci, the management board and bargaining unit and say: 'Give these people a fair and just contract. They keep Ontario's citizens safe and deal with dangerous offenders. They should be compensated accordingly.'"