RCMP officers from detachments throughout Central Alberta are breathing a sigh of relief after the end of the jail guard illegal strike.
Tasked with covering the day and night shifts of the Red Deer Remand Centre, officers from several area detachments spent their off time as prison guards.
“We didn’t pull any existing resources off the shifts,” said Supt. Warren Dosko. “We were able to call members in who were on days off.”
The five-day strike, which saw employees at most Alberta correctional facilities picket in support of workers at the Edmonton Remand Centre, ended on Tuesday evening after the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees and the provincial government reached a deal.
For the night shift, five off-duty Red Deer RCMP officers were sent to the remand centre to cover the shifts, Dosko said.
Surrounding detachments were responsible for picking up the day shift, which meant 10 off-duty members were sent to the remand centre.
“That was our short-term strategy,” said Dosko. “Obviously if it had gone long term, we would have had a change in strategy. We were able to cover the shifts with members on days off, without affecting day-to-day policing.”
Dosko said the job the officers had to do in the remand centre is significantly different from their normal job.
“They’re in there as guards. They’re not carrying their sidearm … you’re in a different environment and you’re going to work with a different set of tools on your tool belt and the types of work you’re doing is different,” said Dosko.
“It’s a different experience, but it’s not at all a bad experience for some of our younger members who have never done that before.”
Officers who covered the shifts were paid double time. The bill is the provincial government’s responsibility, he said.
After the strike, Premier Alison Redford indicated the provincial government would seek damages from AUPE and a suspension of union dues for up to six months. Redford said the strike cost about $1.3 million per day.
AUPE president Guy Smith said his priority is to ensure the commitment made during negotiations and public comments from government ministers and officials that there would be no retribution against individual union members for recent strike-related activities.
“AUPE will deal with the government’s pursuit of a dues suspension and damages in relation to the recent strike activity in the appropriate forums,” said Smith in a press release.
AUPE has paid the $350,000 fine levied against it after being found in contempt of court for violating a labour board relations ruling calling the strike illegal.
The five-day wildcat strike started at the Edmonton Remand Centre after two correctional peace officers were suspended after voicing safety concerns. After employees at the Edmonton facility started the strike, it spread to numerous Alberta correctional facilities, including the Red Deer Remand Centre.