Legal Services Society (LSS) unionized staff lawyers, represented by the Professional Employees Association (PEA), have issued 72-hour strike notice.
The strike occurred on Friday, November 1 at 7 a.m. with a one-day walkout and picketing, targeting LSS headquarters at 510 Burrard in downtown Vancouver. All legal aid centres throughout the province remained open. Allies and media were invited to attend a rally to show support at 12 p.m on November 1 as part of the strike.
As the first point of contact for individuals seeking legal aid, the LSS staff lawyers oversee the legal aid cases that are referred to contract lawyers working in private practices. They are also the ones managing and staffing the 10 Parent Legal Aid and Regional Legal Aid Centres throughout the province.
LSS staff, mostly women and Indigenous lawyers, comprise the most important point of contact and serve on the front lines of justice for vulnerable British Columbians who need legal aid.
B.C. Attorney General David Eby agreed to a 25-per-cent wage increase in March 2019 for the 1,000 legal aid contract lawyers, and additional wage increases over the next three years were announced earlier this month. In turn, LSS staff lawyers have been offered a two-per-cent annual increase over three years. That is not enough.
Without higher increases, legal aid centres throughout the province will continue to face challenges in recruiting and retaining qualified staff lawyers. After years of underfunding, LSS staff lawyer wages are 30 per cent lower than Crown Counsel.
Beginning November 22, LSS staff lawyers are taking work-to-rule job action. All legal aid centres will remain open. However, the 26 LSS staff lawyers will now only be completing their essential client and case work. They will no longer be performing other administrative duties, such as responding to emails from management or attending staff meetings.
The work-to-rule strike action is incremental in nature and will continue until the B.C. Government comes to the table with an offer that addresses wage inequality.
CUPE’s recently ratified collective agreement for Saanich school support workers shows it is possible to address wage inequities like those faced by LSS staff lawyers within the provincial mandate.
The legal aid staff lawyers are hopeful the B.C. Government will take similar steps to resolve their dispute and are taking work-to-rule job action to demonstrate their continued resolve.
- Dec. 3, 2019: Canadian Lawyer: Striking B.C. legal aid staff lawyers restrict work to essential cases
- Dec. 2, 2019: Winnipeg Press: Lawyers threaten strike over legal-aid pay
- Nov. 26, 2019 - CBC: Strike Struck BC
- Nov. 22, 2019 - Interior News: Legal Service Society launch work-to-rule campaign
- Nov. 21, 2019 - AM150 Radio, Syndicated Glacier Media coverage across 12 publications in BC including Times Colonist and BIV: Legal aid staff start work-to-rule job action
- Nov. 2, 2019 - CKNW Radio, Business in Vancouver
- Nov. 1, 2019 - Omni Television, Fairchild TV, City TV, Global News, CBC Vancouver TV, CBC Radio Victoria
- Oct. 31, 2019 - Syndicated Glacier Media coverage across 12 publications in BC: Legal aid lawyers to hold rally Friday
- Oct. 30, 2019 - AM1150 Radio, Vancouver Province: Opinion - B.C.'s front-line legal aid lawyers ignored
- Oct 29, 2019 - CKNK Radio, Castanet Kelowna, and syndicated Glacier Media coverage across 12 publications in BC: Victoria hoping to avoid legal aid strike
- Oct 28, 2019 - Option: B.C.'s front-line legal aid lawyers ignored - Vancouver Sun
- Oct 28, 2019 - Legal aid staff lawyers to strike Nov. 1 - Vancouver Courier, Business in Vancouver, New West Record, Alaska Highway News, Richmond News, Dawson Creek Mirror, Powell River Peak, Burnaby Now, Squamish Chief, Prince George Citizen, North Shore News
- Oct 16, 2019 - Legal aid lawyers in B.C. get pay hike - Vancouver Sun
- Nov. 21, 2019: Legal aid staff lawyers still without fair agreement, announce work-to-rule
- Oct. 28, 2019 - B.C.’s front-line legal aid staff lawyers serve strike notice
- Oct. 16, 2019 - Staff lawyers at the Legal Services Society have voted to strike
Brett Harper, Senior Communications Officer
250-385-8791 ext. 206
Jordana Whetter, Communications Officer
Phone: 250-385-8791 ext. 210