B.C. risks losing top Crown prosecutors if it scraps existing salary structure, association warns
Lawyers, province have been stuck in contract deadlock for 2 years this month
The association representing Crown lawyers in B.C. says the province will be at risk of losing its most experienced prosecutors if it doesn't agree to keep their old salary structure intact.
The warning from the B.C. Crown Counsel Association comes after a contract dispute between the lawyers and the province hit the two-year mark without a solution.
"Our concern is that if government scraps this longstanding deal, we're going to lose senior prosecutors and younger prosecutors may think twice before joining up with the B.C. Prosecution Service," said counsel association president Kevin Marks.
The association and the province have been stuck in negotiations since the lawyers' previous contract expired in March 2019.
The key sticking point: linkage.
Under the 2007 deal, the top Crown prosecutors in B.C. have to be paid 85 per cent of what a provincial court judge makes. The judges make up to $282,250 per year — so 85 per cent for the top-tier lawyers would be just under $240,000 annually.
The association said the province wants to get rid of linkage in the next contract, but the lawyers don't.
"They deserve that amount. They're the most experienced prosecutors. They're the ones who are doing the high profile murders and gang prosecutions," said Marks, citing the Surrey Six killings as an example.
"We want the exact same deal that we negotiated back in 2007. We're not asking for anything different," he continued. "It worked extremely well for 12 years."
Issue applies to 15 lawyers
The Ministry of Finance did not make a spokesperson available for an interview Wednesday, but sent a brief statement by email.
"We value the work of B.C.'s Crown Counsel. We believe it's best not to comment on bargaining matters while negotiations are still outstanding," it read.
There are currently around 475 prosecutors in the province. The linkage issue only applies to 15 of them — around 3 per cent.
Still, Marks said the salary is also a draw for junior lawyers. Retention and recruitment could become a problem if the linkage disappears, he said.
"They'll have no difficulty finding other jobs," he said, adding senior prosecutors could "easily" take their experience to private practice, defence work or civil litigation.
A lack of prosecutors could also lead to even more court delays, or see inexperienced prosecutors going up against veteran defence lawyers.
"The person who has been charged with a crime, they are going to go out and get a best defence lawyer money can buy. And we say citizens of B.C. deserve the exact same thing," said Marks.
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