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Thu, 10/17/2019 - 15:44

Government lawyers only have right to strike if they don’t use it


WHEN IS A WORKER NOT A WORKER? When you work as a crown attorney in Nova Scotia.

Rick Woodburn, negotiating team member and Perry Borden, president of the Nova Scotia Crown Attorneys’ Association

WHEN IS A WORKER NOT A WORKER? When you work as a crown attorney in Nova Scotia.

On the one hand, the government of Nova Scotia acknowledges the Crowns have a right to strike. On the other hand, the government has moved to restrict, or outright refuse, to allow its lawyers to exercise that right.

The 100 crown attorneys in the province are in the middle of contract negotiations with the province. The crowns want a 17% pay increase over four years. The province is offering 7%. Enough of a gap to get the crowns thinking about going on strike.

Bait and switch tactic

The government wants to make sure that never happens. They pulled off a “bait and switch” tactic October 16 to make sure of it. The bait is legislation that would remove arbitration as an option, yet give crown attorneys the right to strike. The switch is, the government will declare some or all of the crown attorneys an essential service—that is, workers with no right to strike.

Martin Herschorn, the director of public prosecutions, took the unprecedented step of testifying against the bill. He called the government’s claim the prosecutors still had a right to strike “meaningless … misleading and disingenuous… What Crown attorneys would be able to strike?” he demanded. “What murders, child pornography or sexual assault cases would be left unprosecuted?”

“This government gave us binding arbitration so we wouldn’t go on strike,” said Perry Borden, president of the Nova Scotia Crown Attorneys’ Association. “When we exercised our right to binding arbitration it is taken away. It’s unconstitutional; it’s unfair.

“The same government that wants us to uphold the law won’t do it themselves.”

“They don’t want an arbitrator to make a decision on their finances,” says Rick Woodburn, a member of the lawyers negotiating team. “So they’ll give you the right up until the point where you want to use it and then they take it away from you.

“So if they don’t like what’s going on, they take their toys and go home. You ask yourself, is that the kind of government that you want to look at and say I can trust?”

Liberals want to lower the wage bar

“This move by the Liberal government is about setting a low wage pattern for everyone,” says Nova Scotia Federation of Labour President Danny Cavanagh

“The Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union is in bargaining now and this will affect them, the NSGEU civil service members and CUPE Local 1867 Highway Workers and others. It is clearly an attack on all workers in the province as the Liberals are again trying to establish a pattern of low wages as more unions head into bargaining,” says Cavanagh.

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