VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - The British Columbia government's hard-line stance in labor negotiations with public employee unions has set it on a collision course with the province's judges, who have sued the B.C. attorney general for rejecting an independent commission's recommendations for judicial salary increases.
The Provincial Court Judges Association of British Columbia claims the government unfairly rejected the Judicial Compensation Commission's recommendations for a salary increase in fiscal 2013/2014, and other recommendations to revamp pension plan contributions.
The judges association claims the government provided inaccurate information about the size of projected deficits and relied on a "net-zero" policy for salary increases for public employees.
The judges say the government "fails to account for the fact that judges, although they must ultimately be paid from public funds, are not public sector employees, but rather an independent branch of government."
British Columbia had 111 full-time and 35 part-time Provincial Court Judges in 2010, according to the complaint in B.C. Supreme Court.
The Provincial Court has jurisdiction over criminal charges, family law cases and civil claims up to $25,000. Provincial Court judges made $161,250 in 2004; the salary was increased to $231,138 in 2010.
But the judges association says that ever-expanding workloads and increasingly complex cases have placed an unfair burden on Provincial Court judges, who make less than their B.C. Supreme Court counterparts.
"The Provincial Court's jurisdiction is expanding, its caseload is increasing and the cases that come before it are increasingly complex and varied in nature," the petition states. "Despite efforts to create efficiencies, the workload of Provincial Court judges continues to increase steadily, and travel is a regular and rigorous feature of the work of judges who sit outside the Lower Mainland."
The association wants the government compelled to implement all the recommendations of the 2010 Judicial Compensation Commission.
The judges are represented by Joseph Arvay and Bruce Elwood.