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B.C. government lawyers threaten job action over NDP unionization bill

The BC Government Lawyers Association's 350 members voted 97.1 per cent for job action.
bc-legislature-emilynorton-getty (2)
The B.C. legislature in Victoria, B.C.

B.C. government lawyers who fear the NDP provincial government could legislate them into a union have voted in favour of job action as they continue to oppose the proposed law.

The 350 lawyers, members of the BC Government Lawyers Association (BCGLA), have been looking to form their own union. Members voted 70 per cent in favour of such action.

The BCGLA advocates for the civil lawyers who represent the provincial government in court, provide it with legal advice and draft provincial legislation. The group has been in existence for 30 years and has filed unionization cards with the province’s Labour Relations Board (LRB).

On Feb. 9, B.C. Finance Minister Katrine Conroy introduced Bill 5 (the Public Service Labour Relations Amendment Act).

She said it amends the Public Service Labour Relations Act to implement collective bargaining rights for government lawyers employed in the B.C. public service.

“The amendments enable these collective bargaining rights and ensure government maintains an appropriate public service bargaining framework that promotes continued labour stability and controls future costs,” Conroy said.

However, the association said the bill could force members into the Professional Employees Association. The association asserts the move would deny those who draft the laws — including the Labour Relations Code itself — any right to unionize at all.

Now, the lawyers have voted 97.1 per cent for job action.

BCGLA president Gareth Morley said the association has been clear in opposing the bill.

“Our job action committee will start planning right away to oppose Bill 5 with several tactics being considered,” Morley said. “No government in Canadian history has brought in legislation to stop a labour board certifying a union before.”

The lawyers have accused Conroy of interfering with their organizing application to the LRB. The board has been due to to hear a BCGLA application under the Labour Relations Code for recognition of the association for collective bargaining purposes.  

That LRB process would be rendered moot by the passage of Bill 5, Morley said.

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