VICTORIA, British Columbia, Oct. 16, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Staff lawyers from The Legal Services Society (LSS), who service Legal Aid centres across BC, voted 100 per cent in favour of strike action yesterday. The LSS provides essential legal aid services to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in the province, yet their lawyers make over a third less than their colleagues in Crown Counsel.

Legal aid in BC has been underfunded for the last two decades, with BC ranking only tenth in Canada for per capita legal aid funding. Chronic underfunding has resulted in only a very small number of the most critical cases receiving access to legal aid.

These lawyers are predominantly women and Indigenous lawyers and are seeking wage redress. The unanimous LSS strike vote is focused on the need to change this wage inequality. Without an increase, Parent Legal Centres in rural parts of the province could struggle to retain and recruit qualified lawyers.  

“Our legal aid staff lawyers deserve long-term sustainable funding for their wages in order to support the critical work they do,” said Scott McCannell, Executive Director of the Professional Employees Association (PEA). “Our members do not take this strike vote lightly but securing a fair and equitable contract is critical for effective legal aid throughout the province.”

The provincial government has invested in legal aid over the past few years and therefore understands the need to adequately fund the BC legal system. The Association of Legal Aid Lawyers (ALL) recently reached a settlement with the Provincial Government to address increases to their tariff rate.

Highlights

Underfunding: Legal aid in BC has been chronically underfunded for the last two decades, meaning that every person in the province is not afforded the same protections of law and justice. This goes against the rule of law.

Wage redress: Lawyers from the Legal Services Society (LSS) earn over a third less than their colleagues in Crown Counsel, resulting in the 10 Parent Legal Centres across BC struggling to retain and recruit qualified lawyers. The LSS is staffed predominantly by women and Indigenous lawyers.

Vulnerable communities at risk: Without increased funding for adequate wages to support legal aid, the LSS will continue to only be able to service the most desperate cases in BC, despite an increasing need to provide access to justice for those at risk.

About The PEA

The PEA is a union of and for professional employees. PEA bargaining units consist entirely or mostly of professionals — people whose work typically requires that they have earned at least one university degree.

The PEA was certified to represent the Legal Services Society (LSS) in 1981. LSS members practice primarily in criminal, family, and immigration law across many locations in BC.

Media Contact Brett Harper, Senior Communications Officer Phone: 250-385-8791 ext. 206 Mobile: 778-587-7397