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B.C.’s legal aid staff lawyers begin strike Friday

B.C.'s unionized legal aid staff lawyers walked off the job on Friday.
B.C.'s unionized legal aid staff lawyers walked off the job on Friday. File Photo

Bus drivers aren’t the only ones going on strike on Friday.

The union representing B.C.’s 28 legal aid staff lawyers also launched job action Friday morning, starting with a one-day walkout and picketing at the Legal Services Society (LSS) headquarters in downtown Vancouver.

Legal aid centres throughout B.C. remained open on Friday.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver bus, SeaBus job action has begun. Here’s what you need to know

The Professional Employees Association (PEA) says LSS staff lawyers are the first point of contact for people seeking legal aid, before clients are referred to contract lawyers in private practices.

“Our members are predominantly women and Indigenous staff lawyers who do the hard work of providing legal aid and community,” said Sam Montgomery with the PEA.

“Our members are the frontline public servants who service these centres throughout the province and they’re the in-house staff lawyers who have been historically underpaid.”

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B.C. legal aid cuts hurt women leaving abusive relationships
B.C. legal aid cuts hurt women leaving abusive relationships

The union says the province has agreed to a 25 per cent wage increase for legal aid contract lawyers, while unionized staff lawyers have been offered a two per cent annual increase over the next three years.

READ MORE: B.C. government, Legal Services Society announce deal to avoid legal aid strike

It says LSS staff lawyers are also paid about 30 per cent less than Crown counsel, and that the wage disparity makes attracting and retaining qualified lawyers difficult.

The LSS says it remains committed to reaching a deal with the PEA through bargaining and is willing to resume negotiations.

It says it will “do its best to ensure critical services remain available to assist clients and lawyers,” and that the public can find out more about services during the strike here.

—With files from Robyn Crawford