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Publication date : 2018-03-12

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Crown attorneys want to form a union, but NDP government presents a hurdle


James Pickard, president of the Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association


The Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association has filed two applications to the Alberta Labour Relations Board, including an application for certification as a bargaining unit.


Before it can be certified though, the association is asking the board to declare unconstitutional parts of the Public Service Employee Relations Act that would prevent the association from serving as a collective bargaining unit.


Association president James Pickard said the organization had hoped the government would change the legislation so it would not have to launch a challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


That didn’t happen, he said in an interview Friday.


“We’ve talked to the province about trying to do something co-operatively. I can’t get into details, of course, about what happened and where that went, but obviously we’re making this application, so we weren’t able to do anything co-operatively,” said Pickard.


“They’re opposed to the Labour Relations Board application, and that’s all I can say at this point.”


Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley declined an interview request and the government refused to comment because the matter is before the board.


Pickard said a number of factors led members of the Crown attorneys’ association to vote last fall in favour of seeking a collective agreement.


Government wage freezes that have hampered recruitment and retention, concerns over prosecutor safety and ongoing staff shortages and delays around court cases influenced the decision and are among the issues that bargaining could help address, he said.


“What we’re looking for is fairness, certainty. We want to have a voice in what happens to us. And I think ultimately, we also want to make sure we have a strong prosecution service,” said Pickard.


Pickard stressed that the idea isn’t new and that Crown attorneys in most other provinces are able to bargain collectively.


The LRB will hold hearings on the applications in December.