VANCOUVER, July 26 /CNW/ - The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union announced today that it has agreed to a request from the Legal Service Society of B.C. for an application for mediation to resolve the impasse at the bargaining table. The Legal Services Society of B.C. will be filing the mediation application today. The union remains concerned that the employer seems unprepared to seriously consider the union's demand to strengthen employment security for its members, however.
"The union is willing to go the extra mile and use mediation to reach an agreement with the Legal Services Society," says BCGEU president Darryl Walker. "But no one should doubt our members' resolve to make employment security our top priority in this round of bargaining."
"The employer has asked for mediation, but has made no indication that they are willing to discuss employment security in this round of bargaining. If they continue to hold that position, after cutting staff and contracting out members' work, there will be little to discuss at the negotiation table."
In the wake of a $2 million reduction in the operating grant from the provincial government in 2010, along with a directive to cut facilities costs by up to 50 per cent, the Legal Services Society closed 5 of the 7 remaining regional offices in March, laid off 58 staff and contracted out members' work to "local agent" contractors across the province.
A number of legal services have also been eliminated or severely reduced in an effort to comply with provincial government funding cuts - including a drastic reduction in Family Law and Immigration and Refugee services, and the elimination of the Law Line and Community Advocate Support Line phone services. Even some criminal offences are no longer covered by legal aid.
"The legal aid system in B.C. has been systematically dismantled over the past eight years by a government that seems not to care about ensuring access to justice by low-income citizens," said Walker. "Our members have watched with increasing dismay as their jobs are handed over to private contractors, and this time, they have said enough is enough."
SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union
For further information: For further information: BCGEU Communications at 604-291-9611