03/03/2016 15:04 EST | Updated 03/04/2017 00:12 EST

Union representing Quebec jail guards decries working conditions

Several dozen jail workers marched in front of the Sherbrooke Detention Centre on Thursday morning, protesting against what they say are insufficient resources to do their job safely due to stalled contract negotiations.

The union representing jail workers say the government is dragging its feet negotiating a new contract, and in the meantime, conditions have become unsafe for workers in jails.

"For us, safety is key," said Mathieu Lavoie, spokesman for the union.

"We work with a clientele that isn't easy, they aren't the best of society, The clientele we have — we've already judged that they're dangerous to society."

Jails 'overpopulated': union

Lavoie said they've been unable to hire new guards because of ongoing negotiations with the province — which show no sign of being resolved.

"Our jails are overpopulated. We don't have enough labour because for the last year, hiring has been frozen because we don't have a contract," he said.

Lavoie said he knows their ability to put pressure on the government is limited because they cannot go on strike.

He said they're taking their show on the road by holding protests across the province in front of different jails.

"We'll keep protesting until the government understands. If they don't want to understand us, then we'll organize in a way that makes them understand," Lavoie said.

In a statement, Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said negotiations will continue until there's a contract for the jail guards.

"We don't negotiate in public," he said. "We'll continue our negotiations in private."