Media Release: Legal aid staff lawyers still without fair agreement, announce work-to-rule

Publish date: Thursday, November 21, 2019

LSS - Legal Services Society Lawyers

November 21, 2019 (Victoria) – Starting tomorrow, the Legal Services Society (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. This 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.

Currently, legal aid staff lawyers make 30-per-cent less than their colleagues in Crown Counsel. The 1,000 legal aid contract lawyers were given a 25% tariff increase earlier this year, as well as additional tariff increases over the next 2 fiscal years. PEA members are being left behind.

“The Government has an opportunity to stop the historical underfunding of legal aid,” said Harshada Deshpande, a staff lawyer at the Parents Legal Centre in Vancouver. “We do the same work as the contracted legal aid lawyers, yet we’ve been offered less.”

“We are the first point of contact in the legal aid centres across the province. We go to court and we also advocate for clients outside of court processes. We serve on the front lines of justice for those who need it most.”

Without wage increases, B.C. legal aid centres will continue to face challenges in recruiting and retaining qualified staff lawyers. This differential will drive good people out of the legal aid centres and convince the next generation it’s better to become a contract lawyer in private practice than it is to work as a legal aid staff lawyer.

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.

With support from the BC Federation of Labour and BCGEU workers, LSS staff lawyers held a one-day walkout and picketing of the LSS headquarters in Vancouver on November 1. Their collective agreement expired on September 30, 2019.

About The PEA
The PEA is a union of and for professional employees. PEA bargaining units consist entirely or mostly of professionals — people whose work typically requires they have earned at least one university degree. The PEA was certified to represent the Legal Services Society (LSS) in 1981. LSS members practice primarily in criminal, family, and immigration law across BC.

Media Contacts
Brett Harper, Senior Communications Officer
bharper@pea.org
Phone: 250-385-8791 ext. 206
Mobile: 778-587-7397

Jordana Whetter, Communications Officer
jwhetter@pea.org
Phone: 250-385-8791 ext. 210
Mobile: 250-516-5552

In this section

The PEA was formed in 1974, by a group of professionals working in the public sector. The story goes that the founders of the union mortgaged their houses to fund negotiations of the union’s first collective agreement. 

Now, the PEA is BC’s union for professionals. We represent a wide range of professionals including lawyers, foresters, engineers, agrologists, teachers, veterinarians, fundraisers, physiotherapists, pharmacists, psychologists program managers, librarians and more.

Our union is led by the PEA Executive. They represent members from across the chapters of the PEA and set the overall vision and direction for our union.

Resources for our members

Navigating a union can sometime be a challenging process. Under this section of the website you will find resources to help you navigate the PEA. In the members section you'll find expense claim reimbursements, information on the PEA's scholarship and bursary program and our grants and donations program.

Collective bargaining and job action resources explain the process of collective bargaining and what to do in the unlikely event of job action. 

Local reps can also find resources to help them complete their job more effectively. This includes ways to welcome new members, how to take notes in investigation disciplinary meetings and more.

The heart of our union

The PEA is made up of nine chapters, or groups of members who either work for the same employer or are in the same field of work. Each chapter has an elected executive tasked with running the affairs of the chapter. Each chapter is entitled to representation at the PEA Executive, the governing body of the union. 

Our members work for a range of employers: the Province of BC, the University of Victoria, St. Margaret's School, the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, the Oil and Gas Commission, the Law Society of BC, Legal Services Society, the Okangan Regional Library and health authorities across BC.

Professionals need unions now more then ever

Since the 1970’s, when the PEA was formed, our mission has been to ensure our members can work in safe, productive environments and receive fair and reasonable wages and benefits for the valuable work they do. We help individuals and groups of professional workers to understand the challenges they face in their workplaces and some of the solutions available to them. 

We work with potential members to become certified as a union and achieve the wages, benefits and respect they deserve. 

The Professional | Volume 45 Issue 2

The Professional is the PEA's award-winning, quarterly magazine for members.

The October-November 2019 issue includes a profile of ORL members Stephanie Thoreson and Jamie Stuart.

Read the October-November 2019 issue

 

 

The PEA was formed in 1974 to represent licensed professionals in the BC Public Service. Since then the organization has grown to include a wide range of professionals from across BC. Find our more about our governance, staff and strategic direction.

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