Growing anger among the 2 500 Government of Canada justice lawyers



    OTTAWA, Oct. 6 /CNW Telbec/ - The Association of Justice Counsel (AJC),
the union representing justice lawyers employed by the Government of Canada,
has denounced the recent Treasury Board decision to ask the Public Service
Staff Relations Board to choose the chairperson of the arbitration board that
will rule on the lawyers' first collective agreement.
    As stated by the President of the AJC, Mr. Patrick Jetté: "We are all the
more outraged by the Treasury Board decision given that its representatives
rejected the three candidates we submitted to them through a mediator,
including a former Supreme Court justice. They also refused to commit to the
selection criteria that we proposed, criteria as basic as being arm's length
from the Public Service and the Government, having relevant and varied
experience, and having been recognized by parties to previous arbitrations. It
is clear to us that the Government, which moreover has made law and order one
of its key campaign issues, is not ready to recognize that the justice lawyers
who write the laws, assist in their enforcement, and defend them before the
courts, deserve working conditions comparable to those offered on the market."
    Government of Canada justice counsel have been grouped together in a
union and certified pursuant to the Public Service Act since April 28, 2006.
They tabled a negotiation plan for their first collective agreement in
November 2006. Because the negotiations did not lead to any tangible results,
they have been continuing before a mediator for 5 months. Last April, a
request for arbitration was made and since then, discussions have been taking
place between the parties on the choice of a chair for the arbitration board.
    "While the Government has been carefully taking its time and stretching
every deadline to the maximum throughout these negotiations, an increasing
number of lawyers from the Public Prosecution Service (PPSC) are choosing to
pursue their careers either at the provincial or territorial level, in private
practice, or in business. The reasons provided by these people for leaving are
all similar: inadequate working conditions and a lack of respect on the part
of the employer, which is moreover finding it increasingly difficult to
recruit new prosecutors for the PPSC. Unduly delaying the arbitration and
demonstrating its lack of interest in reaching an agreement on our working
conditions won't help Treasury Board attract any more young lawyers, nor
encourage the more experienced ones to remain in its employ," concluded the
Association President.

    Hiring and retention of LAs

    While Treasury Board has not produce a study providing data on staff
turnover among justice counsel, the AJC has been able to put together some
figures from a few regional offices thanks to its representatives. The key
fact that emerges is that in the past few months, approximately fifty lawyers
have left their jobs with the Department of Justice or the PPSC. About half of
those were in the Ontario office in Toronto. It seems clear that for many,
working conditions and salary are behind the decision to quit.
    "It is no surprise to us that the Toronto office is experiencing the
greatest erosion, when you look at the pay scales for provincial crown
prosecutors, which are on average 45% higher than ours," Mr. Jetté commented.
"These departures are all the more disquieting given that new legislation has
been promised by the Harper government that will increase the number and
complexity of prosecutions. All of this in a context in which the recruitment
of new lawyers is proving very difficult. It's time politicians woke up to
this reality, which is threatening to have negative consequences for the
administration of justice in Canada and the Canadian public."

    About the AJC-AJJ

    The Association of Justice Counsel is the national union representing the
some 2 500 lawyers employed by the Government of Canada, notably in the
Justice Department and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada. The AJC was
certified in April 2008. Web site: www.ajc-ajj.org




For further information:

For further information: Patrick Jetté, (514) 743-2900; Source:
Association of Justice Counsel

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