The Quebec government is expected to impose a labour agreement on government lawyers and notaries that will give them the lowest salary hike of all Quebec public civil servants after months of negotiations with a mediator failed to find common ground.
Without a collective agreement since March 2015, Quebec ‘s 1,100 government lawyers and notaries held the longest Canadian strike by public civil servants, from October 2016 to March 1, 2017, before it was forced to back to work after the government passed an unusual back-to-work decree.
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.
A general strike by Quebec government lawyers and notaries shows no signs of abating as the provincial government is remaining firm while the bargaining agent has received the approval of the overwhelming majority of its members to shore up its war chest.
Without a contract for more than a year, the 1,100 members of the Les avocats et notaires de l’État québécois (LANEQ) have been on strike since late October to push for a change in the negotiation process from the current mediation process. LANEQ is calling for binding arbitration, buoyed by a compensation committee, with a chair chosen and appointed by both parties. The mandate of the compensation committee would include assessing reasonable compensation while taking into the account the provincial government’s capacity to pay. In exchange, the association is willing to give up its right to strike.