TORONTO, Sept. 24, 2013 /CNW/ - Ontario's Legal Aid lawyers are launching a campaign aimed at bringing workplace equality to the public agency providing legal assistance to Ontario's poor and disadvantaged.
The group is looking to secure collective bargaining rights but their employer, government agency Legal Aid Ontario (LAO), has refused to meet with them.
The plight of Legal Aid lawyers sits in stark contrast to all other groups of lawyers in the provincial public sector, including Crown Attorneys, who enjoy the right to collective bargaining. Campaign spokespeople point out that more than two-thirds of lawyers working for LAO are women, while lawyers working in other provincial agencies are mostly men. They also point out that the lawyers at LAO are the most racially diverse group of public sector lawyers in the province.
Diane O'Reggio, Executive Director of Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) said, "LAO is a publicly-funded and accountable non-profit corporation. It is the second-largest justice agency in Ontario and one of North America's largest providers of legal service. It's unacceptable that Legal Aid - a public, government agency - is a party to such discrimination."
"The continued denial of LAO lawyers' right to freedom of association and their ability to collectively negotiate workplace conditions has a direct impact upon the quality of service that the poorest members of our province receive," said Clayton Ruby. "Legal Aid is losing people with skills and expertise instead of working with them to make the system better. Poor people deserve better than this."
YWCA Chief Executive Officer Heather McGregor said, "The poor and disadvantaged in our province deserve access to the justice system and access to high quality legal services. We believe that the quality of the legal services provided by Legal Aid Ontario could be improved if those who are on the frontlines have a collective voice."
More than 80 percent of Legal Aid lawyers have expressed their desire in writing to enter into a collective bargaining agreement with LAO, yet CEO Bob Ward continues to ignore their requests.
The LAO Lawyers organizing campaign represents over 200 lawyers from across Ontario who are employed as staff lawyers or duty counsel at Legal Aid Ontario in the Family and Criminal Courts, the Refugee Law Office and at the Clinic Resource office.
The campaign already has the backing of a number of high profile individuals and organizations, and will continue to build support by launching a website, seeking endorsements, holding public forums and reaching out to key decision-makers.
SOURCE: Legal Aid Ontario Lawyers' Organizing Campaign
For further information:
Katrina Miller 647-272-5024 or Bill Fitzpatrick 416-886-3793 www.laolawyers.ca