Unionization at Justice Canada: A Case Study
Kowalsky, Andrij Roman
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In April 2005, non-management lawyers working at the federal Department of Justice Canada (DOJ) were recognized by the Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA) as employees. This dissertation explores DOJ lawyers unionizing by addressing two research questions: (1) what led DOJ lawyers to unionize with the Association of Justice Counsel (AJC)? and (2) what was the AJC’s experience in negotiating a first collective agreement? The dissertation is organized using a conventional structure. The literature review presented in Chapter 2 maps the academic study of lawyer unionization. Chapter 3 elaborates on the dissertation’s research design as a case study. Chapter 4 explains DOJ lawyers’ exclusion from the Public Service Staff Relations Act, the DOJ’s administration of the individual employment relationship, and introduces the Legal Officers’ Advisory Committee (LOAC). Chapter 5 provides a historical analysis of events leading to LOAC becoming the AJC. The chapter describes how redressing an exclusive wage premium known as the “Toronto differential” helped LOAC generate employee support for forming the AJC as a professional association, and, later, campaigning for union recognition under the PSLRA. Chapter 6 presents the AJC’s negotiation and completion of a first labour agreement. Chapter 7 concludes the work. Findings from the seven chapters are synthesized into a descriptive theory that addresses the two research questions. Its thesis is that DOJ lawyers’ desire for workplace representation and improved wages, executive level support from the DOJ, and introduction of the PSLRA facilitated the creation and development of the AJC into a vehicle that directed the unionization process. The argument further holds that the AJC negotiated a first collective agreement with an employer who engaged in hard bargaining that resulted in deadlocked negotiations, but was conduct, nonetheless, the courts determined had allowed the AJC a meaningful process of collective bargaining prior to the imposition of wage-restraint legislation. The dissertation’s findings: (1) detail the establishment of a new professional union in Canada’s federal public service; (2) confirm the relevance of the processual model for understanding DOJ lawyers unionizing; and (3) suggest that litigation challenging legislation remains unpredictable despite jurisprudence that protects the process of collective bargaining.