Edmonton

Hopes for long-term agreement between Crown prosecutors, province stall out

The province won’t recognize the Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association (ACAA) as a representative of Alberta’s prosecutors, stalling hopes for coming to a long-term agreement, the association’s president says.

Talks continue for short-term deal, says head of Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association

Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association president Dallas Sopko flanked by other prosecutors at the Edmonton Law Courts building in May after province agreed to negotiate on a new framework. Six weeks later, no new agreement has been struck. (Janice Johnston/CBC)

The head of the Alberta Crown Attorneys' Association says hopes for a long-term agreement with the province have stalled because the government will not recognize the ACAA as the single voice for Alberta's nearly 400 Crown prosecutors.

"In the absence of that it's just impractical to enter into a framework agreement for a lengthy period of time," ACAA president Dallas Sopko said Friday.

"Our association is disappointed in that, our members are disappointed in that. That was our expectation when this process started."

In May, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro agreed to a six-week negotiation with the association after it threatened to strike over what it described as too low salaries, overwhelming workloads and a lack of mental health supports.

Shandro agreed at that time to increase prosecutor salaries to bring them in line with other jurisdictions and to sit down with the association to talk about coming up with a long-term framework agreement.

Sopko has previously said many senior Crown prosecutors have left the service over working conditions, and that recruitment and retention of new prosecutors is difficult.

He said most provinces in Canada have framework agreements with their prosecution services, and that it would provide long-term stability for the Alberta service. 

Sopko said the long-term frameworks can last for decades, and set out who the parties are, what authorities they each have, as well as methods for resolving disputes and processes for what happens if the parties can't come to shorter-term agreements about pay and other issues.

Even though hopes for a long-term agreement have been stymied, Sopko said the association is continuing to work with the province on short-term agreement that could address some of the prosecutors' pressing concerns.

He said a shorter agreement could cover the next two to four years.

A spokesperson for Shandro declined to comment while discussions with the prosecutors are continuing. 

Sopko said there are no plans for a strike or other job action for now, even though the six-week negotiation process didn't result in any resolution.

"The last thing we want to do is to walk away from court cases and have victims denied their day in court," he said.

He added that prosecutors will remain at the table, trying to hammer out a short-term agreement. 

"And if that doesn't happen, then we'll have to revisit what the next step is."

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