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October 18, 2002

Prosecutors weigh next move

From: Montreal Gazette, Canada
Oct. 18, 2002

Meeting with minister goes nowhere. Court boycott enters sixth day, as lawyers urge Quebec to appoint a mediator

The Gazette

Friday, October 18, 2002
Crown prosecutors were meeting late last night to decide whether to stay out of court for a sixth day today after a face-to-face meeting with the justice minister ended in stalemate.

The Quebec government refused to give in to their ultimatum that a mediator be appointed to restart stalled labour talks .

Treasury Board President Joseph Facal - who is responsible for salary negotiations with public-sector workers - said he refused because technically talks haven't even started yet.

The Treasury Board negotiator tried six times over the weekend to contact the crown prosecutors' association, he said.

"At this stage we find it premature to appoint a mediator," he said. The dispute threatens to drag on, since the government and the prosecutors aren't even on the same page about what stage they are at in bargaining.

The government is all set to begin talking about the 35-per-cent raise the prosecutors are asking for to catch up to their counterparts in other provinces.

But the prosecutors are stuck on the fact a bill Justice Minister and Attorney General Paul Bégin presented this week doesn't properly recognize their association as a negotiating partner.

That, they said, violated an agreement in principle hammered out in April 2001. The prosecutors refused to negotiate anything else until their association was recognized.

During a three-hour emergency hearing yesterday morning involving the government, the opposition and the prosecutors, Bégin agreed to designate the association as the prosecutors' representative. But he would not accord the right to binding arbitration (as opposed to the right to strike) the prosecutors insist is inherent in such recognition.

The prosecutors said they have lost faith in Bégin. They said the only way they will get back to work is if Premier Bernard Landry (who is in Lebanon for the Francophonie Summit) names a mediator.

"We're in a dialogue with deaf people," said Claude Girard, president of the prosecutors' association.
© Copyright 2002 Montreal Gazette