150 Manitoba defence lawyers suspending Monday's planned walkout

Private defence lawyers in Manitoba will show up in court next week, now that the province's justice department has set up a meeting with the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association of Manitoba.

Job action has been narrowly averted as government arranges to meet

Defence lawyers, which handle the majority of court cases in Manitoba, had threatened to walk off the job on Monday. (Shutterstock)

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.

Gerri Wiebe, president of the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association of Manitoba, says defence lawyers will be suspending Monday's planned job action after the province's justice department agreed to schedule a future meeting with them. (Bueti Wasyliw Wiebe)

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


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.