The group representing Alberta Crown prosecutors has delivered a warning to the provincial government that could end in job action.
The Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association sent a letter last month to Premier Jason Kenney, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro and Labour Minister Kaycee Madu which includes a list of demands.
“We want to ensure that you are personally aware that the crisis in the justice system caused by the chronic underfunding of Alberta’s prosecution service is coming to a head,” reads the March 22 letter.
President Dallas Sopko said members met Wednesday to discuss possible job action by the association, which represents 380 prosecutors.
“We want to give the government one last window to do what needs to happen, but if that doesn’t happen, we very well could be going on strike in the next month or so,” Sopko said in an interview Thursday.
The demands include a meeting with senior government officials before the end of this month and a salary grid that puts Alberta prosecutors on par with Ontario and British Columbia. They also want to be able to collectively bargain with the government.
“We are not asking the government to back up the Brinks truck and give us a bunch of money. We don’t want that,” said Sopko.
“All we want is the right to bargain so we can have some certainty and we stop losing senior skilled prosecutors who leave to go to Ontario and B.C.”
Sopko said 95 per cent of prosecutors in Canada have collective bargaining rights. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island are the exceptions.
Shandro said in a statement that the association is being invited to a meeting next week “to seek ways to collaboratively address the concerns highlighted in their correspondence.”
“I want to acknowledge the invaluable work done by Alberta’s Crown prosecutors in the administration of justice,” he said.
Sopko said prosecutors face crushing file loads, lack adequate mental-health supports, and receive uncompetitive compensation. He said those leaving Alberta are being replaced with others less qualified.
“Other provinces are compensating their employees up to 40 per cent higher than we are here and we just can’t compete. We’re a farm team for prosecutors.”
Sopko said Kenney promised to hire 50 new prosecutors in 2019 and 37 vacancies still remain. The association has been trying to have a meeting with someone in government for the last year with no success, he said.
“It’s kind of like banging our heads against the wall.”
– The Canadian Press