Lawyers who do legal aid have voted to accept a bargaining incentive payment from the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Services Society to prevent a withdrawal of lawyer services scheduled for April 1, 2019.
The offer was made possible with a $4 million contribution from government and $3.9 million from LSS. The $7.9 million total will be used to increase payments to lawyers from April 28, 2019, to October 31, 2019, during which time the Association of Legal Aid Lawyers, LSS, and the ministry will negotiate a framework for a future increase in payments beyond the end of October.
“We are relieved that the job action has been averted so that LSS can continue to serve people with low incomes whose unresolved legal matters can significantly impact their lives,” said LSS CEO Mark Benton.
Lawyers who do legal aid have had only one increase in pay since 1991. The association that represents them threated to stop providing services starting Monday to pressure government into providing LSS without enough funding to increase lawyer fees.
“The $7.9 million is a good faith payment,” said Benton. “There will many things to work out in the months ahead, but this is a welcome opportunity to negotiate among all parties about legal aid funding. LSS believes legal aid is not sustainable without a long-term framework for lawyer rates.”