Quebec legislates striking government lawyers, notaries back to work

The Quebec government has passed a special law to force striking government lawyers and notaries back to work after a marathon session at the National Assembly that lasted nearly 24 hours.

Special law passes after marathon session; lawyers, notaries will have to be back at work tomorrow morning

Quebec government lawyers and notaries have been on strike since last October. The group was order back to work in legislation passed Tuesday. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The Quebec government has passed a special law to force striking government lawyers and notaries back to work after a marathon session at the National Assembly that lasted nearly 24 hours.

Under the legislation, 1,100 legal professionals, represented by the union Les avocats et notaires de l'État québécois (LANEQ), will be required to return to work tomorrow morning.

The lawyers and notaries, who advise the province on policy, draft legislation and represent the government in court, have been on strike since October and without a collective agreement since 2015.

The bill passed 52-38 in the National Assembly, with the three opposition parties voting against it.

Union negotiators met Treasury Board President Pierre Moreau on Monday for a bargaining session, an hour before lawmakers were set to convene to debate the back-to-work bill. Those talks were suspended once the bill was tabled.

Union president Jean Denis said the government's offer to bargain under the tight deadline was in bad faith.

But Moreau said action was needed urgently because the four-month-long strike was having an impact on services, such as processing compensation claims to the SAAQ (Quebec's automobile insurance board) and legislative work at the National Assembly.

The provincial government, which has already settled with most of its civil servants, said it offered government lawyers the same salary as its Crown prosecutors. The union disputes that claim.

LANEQ also wanted to negotiate a special status for lawyers and notaries within the civil service. The province said it wanted to reach a settlement before having those discussions.

The law provides an additional 45 days to continue negotiations. However, now that it has passed, the lawyers and notaries must return to work or risk sanctions.

with files from The Canadian Press