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Judge to hear application to end Crown prosecutors strike on Friday


Crown attorneys were at Province House on Thursday for their second day of job action in protest of Bill 203. (Michael Gorman/CBC)


The Nova Scotia government's court application for an injunction to end a strike by Crown attorneys unhappy with contract legislation that would strip their right to binding arbitration will be heard Friday morning.


The government applied for the hearing late Wednesday as the first day of job action by prosecutors led to multiple cases being thrown out of court, including matters related to domestic assault, assault, fraud and drunk driving.


Although Crowns continue to handle what they're calling serious files, such as murders and sexual assaults, they've left everything else to managers to handle.


The filing in Nova Scotia Supreme Court from the province for the injunction said the strike is having a "harrowing effect on the criminal justice system in this province."


A right to protest

As he and his colleagues marched around Province House in Halifax on Thursday for the second day, waving signs and ringing bells, Perry Borden, president of the Nova Scotia Crown Attorneys' Association, said they would contest the government's request for an injunction.


"We are not going to just accept it on its merits. It's our belief that this is a peaceful protest, it's a political protest, and we have a right — a common law right, to be out here."


The Crowns are protesting Bill 203, which the government introduced last week after the two sides failed to agree on terms for a new contract and the prosecutors were poised to exercise their contractual right to binding arbitration.


Crowns were asking for a 17 per cent wage increase over four years, while the government was offering seven per cent over the same timeframe. Premier Stephen McNeil has said the Crowns' ask is unreasonable and unaffordable and so he was not willing to let them go to arbitration.


Current salaries for Nova Scotia Crown attorneys range from $65,329.68 for someone with less than one year of relevant experience to between $145,825.16 and $149,149.78 for a senior Crown counsel with at least 18 years of relevant experience.


Bill could pass on Friday

In striping the 30-year framework agreement that included arbitration, which the government agreed to in the last contract it signed with Crowns, it is instead giving them the right to strike while also classifying them as an essential service.


Last week, the director of public prosecutions for the province told a legislative committee the terms of that arrangement essentially make the right to strike meaningless.


Bill 203 is likely to pass sometime on Friday, as the Liberal government uses its majority to move the legislation through the House. At that point, the Crowns would no longer be in a legal strike position.


Borden said it's unlikely the lawyers, who are charged with being advocates for justice, would contravene the law, although he said they would meet as a collective to review their options.