TORONTO, Oct. 31, 2014 /CNW/ - "The Ontario government's commitment to increase funding for Legal Aid this morning is a step in the right direction but internal issues are having a negative impact on the work environment," said Scott Travers, President of the Society of Energy Professionals. The Society is working with the Legal Aid Lawyers' Campaign Committee (LALCC) to gain collective bargaining rights for the more than 200 staff lawyers at Legal Aid Ontario. "While the government is doing the right thing in extending funding to Legal Aid it should also take this opportunity to direct the Board of Directors of Legal Aid Ontario to extend voluntary recognition to the lawyers' chosen representative," stated Travers.
LALCC has being working for the past eighteen months on gaining voluntary recognition for the Society to act as their bargaining agent. With a number of changes being proposed by Legal Aid Ontario that will impact on their job and workplaces the lawyers recognized that they needed a collective voice to represent their concerns.
Despite efforts to have their issues dealt with, Legal Aid Ontario President Bob Ward has blocked every effort at resolving the issue. In a recent letter to Legal Aid Ontario Board Chair John McCamus the Society and LALCC reminded him and the Board that they were the only significant group of public sector lawyers in the province not to have a collective agreement and representation. Other lawyers such as the Ontario Crown Attorneys Association and the Association of Law Officers of the Crown have achieved this status years ago.
Both the Society and LALCC cited, in their recent letter to McCamus, a quote in a factum filed by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in Mounted Police Association of Ontario et al v. the Attorney General of Canada, which deals with the right to form a bargaining unit within a government agency. "The freedom to associate can only be properly protected where the workers' association is freely chosen by them." The CCLA goes on to argue that an independent association must be free from employer influence.
"If the government wants to improve access to justice for Ontarians, which we support, it must also ensure that there is a harmonious workplace and staff that can deliver that commitment," concluded Travers. "We are ready to work with the government in delivering justice, all we ask is that we be given just treatment."
SOURCE: The Society of Energy Professionals
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