B.C.’s finance minister appears unfazed after government lawyers voted to strike.
Members of BC Government Lawyers Association Monday voted 97.1 per cent for job actions over legislation, which they say denies them the right to choose their own union.
BCGLA represents 350 government civil lawyers employed by government to provide legal advice and write government legislation.
BCGLA President Gareth Morley said Bill 5 introduced on Feb. 9 would force most members into the Professional Employees Association, a union for which none voted or signed up for.
Morley said members have spoken and loud clear, adding they will consider several tactics to oppose Bill 5.
“No government in Canadian history has brought in legislation to stop a labour board certifying a union before,” he said.
BCGLA was due to appear before the Labour Relations Board this month as part of their certification process.
Finance Minister Katrina Conroy said Tuesday morning (Feb.14) Bill 5 actually allows lawyers to form their own union and bargain collectively, something they have been asking for.
Conroy stuck by her line when asked whether she fears the legislation would spark a strike and make things worse.
“Bill 5 is about making sure that they have right to collectively bargain and belong to a union and that’s where we are going to move ahead with,” she said, adding discussions are underway. “We believe that things will work out.”
Conroy said the legislation “maintains an appropriate public service bargaining framework that promotes continued labour stability and controls future costs” when tabling it.
The dispute between the lawyers and province dates back several years. Morley reminded the government of previous promises made in 2018 that lawyers would not be forced into a government-selected union without consultation.
“The irony is that this promise has been broken by the same NDP government that passed Bill 10 last year to prevent employer interference with workers choosing whether to organize and, if so, who will represent them,” Morley said. “But when they are the employer, they do what no other employer in B.C. can and override a legitimate labour hearing process, just to win.”