Crown lawyers in the province could be looking at pay increases of 45 to 60 per cent over the next four and a half years if a memorandum of settlement is ratified later this week.
After more than a year, and 40-plus days and nights of bargaining, the Crowns signed a memorandum of settlement with the government on March 9. Parties have until April 5 to ratify the new agreement.
While none of the parties involved wished to discuss details of the agreement, the Association of Law Officers of the Crown (ALOC), which represents about 600 Ontario Crowns, with the exception of those in the criminal law division, and the Ontario Crown Attorneys' Association (OCAA), which represents over 730 assistant Crown attorneys and Crown law officers, both state in the memo that that they feel the agreement is fair and provides for "reasonable economic increases to the salary grid over the contract period" and say it is worthy of support from members.
If approved by the associations and provincial government, the collective agreement will run retroactively from Jan. 1, 2005, to June 30, 2009. The memo states that the province's 1,300 Crowns will see an across-the-board increase of 14.2 per cent over the next four years, but combined with the pay for performance (P4P) plan, the increases will be much more substantial. The most experienced Crowns could end up making as much as a provincial court judge.
A senior Crown earning an average salary of $126,729 in Dec. 31, 2004, will see his or her salary increase by more than 45 per cent over the course of the agreement ? to $175,588, assuming commendable P4P, as of April 2008, and then up to $180,894 in April 2009.
For a junior Crown who commenced his or her second year of practice in January 2005, he or she would see their salary go up almost 60 per cent from $68,785 to $109,972 as of January 2009.
A brand-new Crown hired in January 2005 would see his or her salary increase from $66,839 to $94,395 in the same time period ? an increase of more than 41 per cent.
According to the memo, effective April 1, 2006, the total performance pay will be increased from 4.53 per cent to 5.03 per cent each year. All mid-level and senior Crowns will be eligible for P4P.
The P4P plan states that 15 per cent of those lawyers eligible assessed at "level 2" will see a two-per-cent bonus, 65 per cent of those lawyers assessed at 'level 3" will see a five-per-cent bonus, and those assessed at the highest level, "level 4," will see a seven-per-cent bonus.
The settlement also sets out gains in non-monetary areas, which include improvements to recruitment, conversion, indemnification, education and training, benefits and a $2 increase to meal allowances.
While the increases to prosecutors are considered worthwhile by many due to increasing case loads and complexity of cases, there have been rumblings from the defence bar who do legal aid work. They say attracting good lawyers to government service is all well and good but if legal aid rates don't keep pace it could mean those accused of crimes may not be able to get the best possible legal representation.
However, according to Attorney General Michael Bryant, Legal Aid Ontario should be getting a $13-million shot in the arm from last month's budget, which may help to alleviate some of the concerns of the defence bar.
The agreement does not apply to federal Crown prosecutors, who currently earn a maximum of $168,000.