Hours of work for Lower Mainland sheriffs restored

VANCOUVER, June 20, 2011 /CNW/ - The provincial government has confirmed that the hours of work for 28 auxiliary and 24 part-time sheriffs, primarily in the Lower Mainland, have been restored, according to the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU).  The union was notified this afternoon.

"We are pleased the government has listened to the concerns from sheriffs, judges and the public about the need to have proper security in our courts," said Darryl Walker, BCGEU president. "The government has responded to weeks of public pressure and frankly, it's about time.  I am concerned that this policy is going to be on a week-to-week basis.  This is a step forward, but we need to continue to press the government on this matter."

On May 27 deputy sheriffs, mostly in the Lower Mainland, had their hours cut dramatically by the provincial government. This included 28 auxiliary deputy sheriffs who had been working almost full-time who had their hours cut by up to 90 percent and 24 regular part-time deputy sheriffs who had their hours cut by 25 percent. The net result of these cuts was a loss of 34 full-time staff.

"The cuts caused many trials to be adjourned or stood down including a home invasion trial and a murder trial because judges felt their courts were unsafe without the presence of a deputy sheriff to provide security," said Walker.

"The provincial government already had problems keeping courts going before these cuts on May 27, but this slowed the wheels of justice to a crawl," said Dean Purdy, chair of the union's Corrections and Sheriff Services component. "While the restoration of hours is good news in the Lower Mainland, the government still needs to look at hiring more sheriffs.  Staffing in Victoria has been a particular problem"

The number of sheriffs has gone from 525 just a few years ago to approximately 385 now.

"The reduction in the number of sheriffs is due primarily to the hiring freeze that has been in place for the past two years within government. We have lost a number of our members to other higher paying law enforcement agencies like the police and sheriffs in Alberta who earn $15,000 a year more," said Purdy.

"Sheriffs are an essential part of our court system and they are needed to ensure our justice system works," said Walker.

"I would like to thank the public for their support on this issue as well as the lawyers and judges who spoke out in our favour," said Walker.

SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

For further information:

Brian Gardiner, BCGEU Communications (604) 291-9611

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