Quebec Crowns eye strike over paltry wages

Quebec’s Crowns and government lawyers say they’re drastically underpaid and are considering a court-clogging strike if a pay boost doesn’t come their way.

“We need to settle this issue for good because our salary has been decreasing over the years when you compare it to the Canadian average,” Marc Lajoie, who represents about 1,000 government lawyers as president of the association of state jurists and notaries, told the Montreal Gazette.

The government lawyers and Crowns argue they get paid about 30-per-cent less than the Canadian average. Lajoie said a Quebec government lawyer earns a salary of $45,000 to $100,000, while a Crown lawyer in Ontario makes $196,000.

His association recently voted overwhelmingly — a 90 per cent landslide, in fact — to strike if necessary.

A separate organization representing some 450 Crown lawyers will soon vote on possible pressure tactics of their own, according to the Gazette report.

Christian Leblanc, who leads the association of Crown attorneys in Quebec, told CBC News late last year that the poor pay and work conditions are diminishing the quality of justice in the province. The Crown association says Quebec needs about 200 more prosecutors to get in line with the supply in other provinces.

Leblanc said the deficit of Crowns has led to court delays longer than anywhere else in Canada. “We’re at a crossroads,” he said. “The Crown is headed for a wall. Something has to be done to correct the situation.”

While salary complaints have been a major roadblock in negotiations with the government, the lawyers are also voicing concerns about ethical issues. They allege their non-lawyer managers sometimes interfere in their work, prompting breaches of professional codes.

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