Lawyers at Legal Aid Ontario received a big boost from Ontario’s Attorney General as they continue their fight to have their employer recognize these lawyers’ collective bargaining rights. On the heels of events on September 23 and 24 to pressure Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) and the provincial government, which oversees LAO, to recognize LAO lawyers’ collective bargaining rights, Attorney General John Gerretsen publicly stated his support for LAO lawyers.
In speaking with the Toronto Sun, Gerretsen said, “I think that the Legal Aid lawyers of Ontario — having been one myself many, many years ago as duty counsel — provide a tremendously important function in our system of justice, both family court and criminal court, and I think they should be compensated properly…They have a right to bargain and hopefully the employer will sit down with them.”
Preceding Gerretsen’s declaration of support, LAO lawyers handed out leaflets to attendees of an event with Premier Kathleen Wynne and held a press conference at Queen’s Park to draw public attention to the issue.
More than 80% of Legal Aid lawyers have signed a petition seeking the right to join The Society. Lawyers, unlike most professions, can only collectively bargain if their employer agrees. These lawyers are the only group of public sector lawyers in Ontario who are not already allowed to collectively bargain. Although it has been asked repeatedly to voluntarily recognize their lawyers’ collective bargaining rights, Legal Aid Ontario refuses to even meet with these employees to discuss the matter.
LAO lawyers are hopeful that Legal Aid Ontario’s recognition of their bargaining rights will happen soon. Until then, LAO lawyers will continue their campaign to pressure Legal Aid Ontario and the provincial government.
To learn more about the Legal Aid lawyers’ campaign and how you can support them, visit www.laolawyers.ca.