Quebec and the union representing legal aid lawyers in several regions confirmed on Saturday that they had reached an agreement in principle, after a week-long strike. The content of the agreement will remain confidential until it is submitted “in the coming days” to union members across the province.
“The parties negotiated intensively to reach a comprehensive agreement in principle. This required perseverance and vigilance for the entire negotiating committee which, after three years of discussions and procrastination, stayed the course in order to obtain a satisfactory agreement,” said the union affiliated with the Federation of Professionals. (FP-CSN), in an internal notice.
It states that “the agreement will be submitted in the coming days to all the union assemblies of the various affiliated regions”. If the majority ratifies this agreement, the conflict will then end.
In a press release, the Minister responsible for Government Administration and President of the Treasury Board, Sonia LeBel, confirmed that the agreement reached represents “more than 250 lawyers”, since it also targets the Center communautaire juridique de la South Shore.
Calling the agreement “fair”, Ms. LeBel reiterated that “the work of legal aid lawyers is more than essential to our justice system”, thanking “the negotiation teams for all the efforts colossal of the last few weeks”.
“Legal aid lawyers play a key role in access to justice in Quebec. They come to the aid of thousands of people in difficulty every year and contribute to ensuring that Quebeckers are supported, better informed and better equipped with regard to their rights,” said the Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette.
Since the beginning of April, several lawyers have been on strike in the regions of Montreal-Laval, Laurentides-Lanaudière, Montérégie and Gaspésie-Bas-Saint-Laurent-Îles-de-la-Madeleine. Cases related to legal aid have therefore been postponed and court appearances may be delayed.
The main issue in this case was pay parity with Crown prosecutors. “We argue the same cases, before the same judges, in the same courts as the prosecution. We deserve the same treatment, ”illustrated the president of the Syndicate of lawyers at the Rive-Sud community legal center, Élisabeth Maillet.
This gap means several thousand dollars less per year for legal aid lawyers, explained Justine Lambert-Boulianne, president of the union for the Montreal and Laval region. “It is not normal that the Defense is paid less than the Crown,” she argued.
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.