Union and Legal Aid Sask. reach agreement after Saskatoon cuts

Pictured is Prince Albert Provincial Court. -- Herald file photo

Jayda Noyes, Daily Herald

Legal aid union withdraws unfair labour claim, agreement recovers four positions

Saskatoon’s legal aid office is seeing returning staff positions after Legal Aid Saskatchewan and the union reached a mediated agreement.

The issue arose back in June—when Legal Aid Saskatchewan announced it was contracting private counsel and laying off Saskatoon employees.

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1949 claimed an unfair labour practice with the Labour Relations Board.

The third party in the mediation process was retired Justice William Vancise, who helped the two parties resolve the conflict.

Legal aid lawyer and the union’s grievance chair, Adam Masiowski, said Vancise asked the parties to mediate and both agreed.

Masiowski didn’t represent the union in the mediation process.

He said the letter of understanding is 23 points, including bringing back four positions.

After both parties signed the agreement on Thursday, the union withdrew its unfair labour claim.

“I don’t think this is the finish line. It is in terms of this, but there is still this restructuring that has taken place and we have lost jobs, so even these four jobs being returned to us doesn’t mean that we’re suddenly back in the same position we were,” said Masiowski.

“At the same time, we were able to mitigate those losses somewhat, so there is cautious optimism over the results at this point.”

Legal Aid Saskatchewan is returning one and a half lawyer positions and two and a half administrative assistant positions to Saskatoon.

But for Masiowski, answering the question of how many jobs they lost to begin with is almost impossible.

“There’s jobs that were just—where people actually physically walked out the door, then there were jobs that just haven’t been filled,” he said.

Legal Aid Saskatchewan initially laid off four support staff positions.

Additionally, an application call centre in Regina replaced two eligibility officers.

“My personal opinion is that we lost six jobs in total, we got four back, so we’re down two, but I don’t think every single person involved in this would agree with that,” added Masiowski.

CEO of Legal Aid Saskatchewan, Craig Goebel, commended Vancise and both parties.

In a news release, he said the agreement helps them improve their service in Saskatoon and across Saskatchewan.