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Legal aid staff in Saskatchewan have announced they won’t accept any more new clients until their employer returns to bargaining with an improved package.

The 111 members of CUPE 1949, workers with the Saskatchewan Legal Aid Commission, have voted overwhelmingly to reject management’s “final offer”. The lawyers, legal assistants and secretaries have been without a contract since September 1997 and are demanding improvements in wages and workload.

Local president Felicia Daunt points out that their secretaries are so underpaid they would be eligible for legal aid themselves. Legal assistants make $600 a month less than those working for Saskatchewan Government Insurance. And lawyers make as much as 24 per cent less than crown prosecutors who do similar work.

“Workload is another major issue,” said Daunt. “In 1986, the Commission had 142 employees handling 19,600 applications for full service. Today, we have 130 employees but the caseload is the same or worse.”