The more than three-year campaign to win collective bargaining rights for Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) lawyers made a major breakthrough this summer and now a representation vote is planned for the week of October 17.
First, on August 24 Legal Aid Ontario agreed to negotiate a framework agreement with The Society for how the lawyers could establish that they want The Society to act as their exclusive bargaining agent. On September 9, the agreement was signed by both The Society and Legal Aid Ontario. That agreement calls for a secret ballot vote by LAO lawyers who are eligible to be part of the proposed bargaining unit the week of October 17. The parties agreed that the representation vote will be conducted in a manner as similar to how the Ontario Labour Relations Act describes as possible given that the Act itself does not apply to lawyers.
This progress means that The Society will drop its constitutional challenge of the exclusion of Legal Aid Ontario lawyers from provincial labour laws.
The extraordinary turn of events comes following The Society’s summer-long pressure campaign against Legal Aid Ontario.
“I am so proud of what Legal Aid lawyers and The Society have accomplished,” said President Scott Travers. “Instead of giving up, we pushed harder and harder until the government and Legal Aid Ontario had no choice.”
Now the campaign’s attention turns to winning the representation vote. The committee of Legal Aid lawyers that led the campaign so far will continue to do so. With the support of Society elected and staff representatives, the committee will be reaching out to as many LAO lawyers as possible to discuss the advantages Society representation will bring to their professional and personal lives.