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March 16, 2022

Disgruntled B.C. prisoners looking to become unionized

Inmates at Mountain Institution in Agassiz are about to form the first prisoner labour union in Canada

Jail Once they have enough members signed up, organizers will take their proposal to the Labour Board of Canada in a bid to be certified.

The group’s lawyer Natalie Dunbar stressed that the inmates are not trying to create another prisoners' rights group, such as those that exist in the United States, but instead want a body to address prisoners' labour union issues. The average daily pay for inmates, for instance, is something like $15 a day and workplace accidents are not uncommon.

"The issues are really very simple in many cases – they are having the proper equipment to do a job, the proper tools, having safety boots. A lot of inmates have some type of job in the union and their grievance process right now is a mess. There's a huge backlog."

She says inmates in Canada want to work towards their own rehabilitation, and that similar attempts to create unions have taken place in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The British movement, which has long attracted the ire of the Prison Service, is the brainchild of Ben Gunn, a prisoner serving a life sentence at Her Majesty’s Prison Shepton Mallet

But what clout would such an organization really have? How, for instance, would prisoners withhold their labour? Who'd be inconvenienced if a prisoner went on strike? And isn’t the point of being in prison the fact that you don't have the same rights as a normal citizen?

Should a convicted criminal still be able to lobby for additional labour rights? Or have they lost option by being incarcetated? What are your thoughts?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...