The longest Canadian strike by public civil servants came to an abrupt end after the Quebec government passed a special law that compelled striking government lawyers and notaries back-to-work following a labour conflict that paralyzed the province’s administrative justice system and incapacitated the government’s efforts to pass legislation and enact regulations.
The unusual back-to-work decree calls for the provincial government and Les avocats et notaires de l’État québécois (LANEQ) to return to the negotiating table to bargain “in good faith” with the help of a mediator whose recommendations are non-binding. If an agreement is not reached within 105 days following the passage of Bill 127, the provincial government will impose a labour agreement that calls for a 5.25 per cent salary increase over five years compared to the 9.15 per cent increase Quebec’s 450,000 public sector workers received.
Quebec government lawyers and notaries, forced back to work after Canada’s longest public sector strike, won a legal battle against the provincial government after the Quebec Court of Appeal held that the government discriminated against jurists on maternity leave.
In a nuanced decision that will provide comfort to both employers and labour organizations, the appeal court found that it is not discriminatory if employers under certain circumstances “distinguish” for purposes of compensation between employees who provide services to employers and those who do not such as those in maternity or sick leave.
But the appeal court added that it is discriminatory if employers provide different compensation to different groups of employees who do not provide services to employers, if the distinction was based on prohibited grounds.
Quebec’s two law societies have concurrently launched an investigation to determine whether agencies, departments and ministries of the Quebec government are employing and hiring civil servants who are engaged in the illegal practice of the legal profession.