Federal Lawyers Appear before House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, Citing Injustice on the Part of the Federal Government



    OTTAWA, Feb. 23 /CNW Telbec/ - Federal Budget legislation currently
before the House Finance Committee will unfairly impact federal lawyers and
public prosecutors to the detriment of Canadians, says Patrick Jetté,
President of the Association of Justice Counsel (AJC). "Bill C-10 will deny
federal lawyers the right to collective bargaining and will have a devastating
impact on the ability of the federal government to retain and recruit
lawyers," says Jetté.
    Appearing this evening before the House of Commons Standing Committee on
Finance, the AJC President will make clear that the federal government is
singling out its own lawyers for harsh and punitive treatment, as a time when
the federal government is unable to fill legal vacancies in such critical
areas as public prosecution.
    "Federal lawyers have not had a wage increase since April 1, 2005," said
Jetté. "In fact, we are still trying to negotiate a salary agreement for
2006-07. Bill C-10 pre-empts the collective bargaining process by imposing
retroactively a cap of 2.5% on possible salary increases for this period, and
singles out lawyers in the process. No other federal civil servants are being
treated this way."
    The salaries of lawyers and public prosecutors working for the Government
of Canada lag far behind those of their provincial counterparts in Ontario,
British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. The wage
disparity is even more pronounced when measured against private sector
lawyers, many of whom appear opposite federal lawyers in court on a daily
basis.
    "The treatment of federal lawyers by its own government is completely
unacceptable and is having a deeply negative impact on morale," noted Jetté.
"Our lawyers had looked to settling a fair and equitable agreement for 2006-07
which would address much of the disparity that exists with our provincial and
private sector counterparts. For some unknown reason, the federal government
has decided that its lawyers are second class civil servants and has singled
us out for this sort of treatment."

    The Association of Justice Counsel represents more than 2,500 lawyers
employed by the Government of Canada in the Department of Justice, Public
Prosecution Service of Canada and Federal Agencies. The recent move by the
federal government to impose a retroactive cap on the period 2006-07 was not
contained in the Economic and Fiscal Update released in late November and the
Budget tabled in January 2009, leading federal lawyers to believe that they
are being singled out.
    "The Department of Justice itself recognizes that it cannot attract
experienced lawyers to replace the large number who are nearing retirement or
choosing to pursue other career options," noted Jetté. "The problem is
particularly acute among federal prosecutors and commercial lawyers. Salary
levels are so low that the government cannot compete against the private
sector and six provincial governments in these critical areas, among others."
    Jetté will also make clear that the punitive measures contained in the
federal legislation may be unconstitutional. "The courts have emphasized that
the Charter guarantee of freedom of association applies to government applies
to government both in its capacity as legislator and in its capacity as
employer," said Jetté. "Bill C-10 in our view constitutes an unjustified
interference in the constitutional right of our members to bargain
collectively."




For further information:

For further information: Patrick Jetté, President, Association of
Justice Counsel, (514) 743-2900 c.

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Association of Justice Counsel (AJC)

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