Nova Scotia's 85 crown attorneys have won a 12.5 per cent salary increase ending a five-year battle to reach its first collective agreement with the province.
"The significance is that we got a collective agreement. That's the big thing for us," says Steve Drake, president of the Nova Scotia Crown Attorneys' Association.
The six-year deal is retroactive to 2009 and expires at the end of March 2015.
Senior Crown counsels will see their top rate of pay increase to $145,000 per year, up from the current ceiling of $125,000.
"We knew it was going to take a long time because there's legislation in place that says we can't bargain collectively," said Drake, noting their last raise was in 2008.
Although the association is not a union, the province agreed for the first time to negotiate what amounts to a conventional collective agreement.
The increase was ordered by an arbitration panel headed by Halifax lawyer Bruce Outhouse and released April 10.
The panel agreed to increase indemnification protection sought by the Crown lawyers. The province will be expected to provide independent lawyers for Crowns accused of misconduct.
"If something happens 15 or 20 years time and you are sued for malicious prosecution or wrongful conviction or something like that, you are protected. We got that and it's going to be enshrined in the collective agreement," Drake said.
The Crown lawyers also won the same on-call duty phone rate given to Legal Aid lawyers — about $1,800 per week.
The association was denied the overtime compensation increases it wanted. The panel rejected a request for three weeks leave per year as compensation for no overtime.
For Drake the battle over a collective agreement is familiar territory. Before becoming a Crown prosecutor in Sydney, he was president of the United Mine Workers of America Local 26, representing Cape Breton coal miners.
"When I came here in 2006 the first thing I asked is where is our collective agreement. I've been working under a collective agreement since 1976. I was told in no uncertain terms there is no collective agreement...I started pushing for it at that time," Drake told CBC News.
Drake says the Nova Scotia Crown Attorneys' Association used the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union civil service master agreement as a template for their negotiations with the public service commission.
"We took that and massaged it and made it Crown centric so it fits the Crowns," he said
"For me as a trade unionist it doesn't get much better than that, I'll tell you."