N.B. Crowns reach tentative deal

Crown lawyers in New Brunswick will vote on a new collective agreement in January, almost two years after their last one expired.

The provincial government announced this week that it had reached tentative agreements with the New Brunswick Crown Prosecutors’ Association and New Brunswick Crown Counsel Association, which include 109 employees working in legal, legislative. and prosecution services at the office of the attorney general.

“I am pleased that we have arrived at the second tentative agreement with public sector groups this month,” said Human Resources Minister Troy Lifford in a statement. “As part of the negotiating process, both our government and the union will withhold details of the agreement until a ratification vote can be held.”

The process has not always run smoothly. The groups’ first collective agreements since they were certified in 2010 provided for wage freezes, but expired in March 2011. Renewal negotiations picked up in September 2011,but were suspended by the government in January this year.

After negotiations resumed, both Crown groups spoke out in May about what they saw as unfair bargaining practices after seeing offers rebuffed by the government. Sticking points were the proposed elimination of retirement benefits for new hires and the way management administers movement on the pay grid.

“Things were going reasonably well until the government suspended bargaining again in January because they were trying to work on their budget. Since then they have basically refused to consider any of our ideas. Their tactics are tantamount to bargaining in bad faith,” NBCPA President Chris Titus said in May.

“Just because the province is trying to tighten up finances by running the public service like a business doesn’t mean that, as an employer, government should be allowed to treat its employees unfairly”, added Eric Boucher, president of the NBCCA.

Boucher declined to comment on the agreement while the ratification vote is outstanding, while Titus could not be reached. But André Lortie, a negotiator with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada who has been working with the Crown groups during the bargaining tells Legal Feeds it’s a relief to finally get a tentative agreement in front of the associations’ members.

“After a certain number of months, it’s always good to reach a deal,” says Lortie.

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