150 Manitoba defence lawyers suspending Monday's planned walkout
Job action has been narrowly averted as government arranges to meet
Private defence lawyers are suspending Monday's job action since the province's justice department has agreed to meet with them.
Late Sunday evening, the president of the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association of Manitoba confirmed defence lawyers will be suspending a week-long walkout that was set to begin Monday — at least until after the two groups have met.
President Gerri Wiebe said Manitoba Justice reached out Sunday to set up a meeting with the organization.
"We just wanted to be consulted," she said. "We don't take job action lightly."
For now, about 150 defence lawyers will continue business as usual, including attending bail hearings.
The threatened job action came as tensions have been rising over legal aid pay rates, which have not increased in 12 years for private lawyers, despite the fact that they handle the majority of court cases in Manitoba.
Wiebe told Julie Dupre on CBC Radio's Up To Speed that the group has been trying to negotiate a pay increase since May 2018, but have "exhausted every option" other than a walkout.
"We have been frustrated pretty much at every turn," Wiebe said Friday.
On Sunday, Wiebe said she remains hopeful the government is being well-intended with the meeting scheduled for Jan. 27.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Cliff Cullen will not be available for interview, a government spokesperson said.
With files from Wendy Jane Parker, Julie Dupre, Dana Hatherly