(Montreal) Legal aid lawyers will strike starting Thursday in several regions of Quebec.

The strike will begin on April 6 and the lawyers will start working again on the 17.

Four regions will be affected, namely Montreal—Laval, Laurentides—Lanaudière, Gaspésie—Bas-Saint-Laurent—Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Montérégie.

These are lawyers who are members of unions linked to the Federation of Professionals, affiliated to the CSN.

The collective agreement expired on March 31, 2019.

The main point in dispute is remuneration; these legal aid lawyers are indeed demanding parity with Crown prosecutors.

This gap means several thousand dollars less per year for legal aid lawyers, said Justine Lambert-Boulianne, president of the union for the Montreal and Laval region, in an interview Monday.

“It is not normal that the Defense is paid less than the Crown,” she argues.

The parties are negotiating intensively again this week, in the hope of avoiding a strike. But, according to the president of the local union, “we are going in circles”.

“There is nothing of interest being filed at the moment. We have been negotiating intensively for a week, several hours a day and a week, and, unfortunately, we are facing a certain amount of misunderstanding,” said Lambert-Boulianne.

She specifies that “the four days of Easter holidays, there will be no telephone call that will be offered to all of Quebec and no video appearance that will be offered to all of Quebec”, since the Montreal section normally covers video appearances and telephone on-call duty for all of Quebec.

“We already feel and we have already received many calls from the police stations. The judiciary has already contacted our directorates; they are all already very, very, very worried to see that there could possibly be service disruptions, therefore denials of rights, therefore several very unfortunate consequences that could occur. We hope that the Treasury will wake up and come up with something satisfactory,” added Lambert-Boulianne.

Reached by email, the Treasury Board Secretariat had not yet commented at the time of writing these lines.

Other unions of legal aid lawyers, which are part of an independent federation, representing members in other regions of Quebec, had reached an agreement with Quebec several months ago.