City of Victoria seeks to institute law department co-ops, apprenticeships

But CUPE local and city don’t see eye to eye on proposal

The City of Victoria’s in-house lawyer is growing his legal department, but a goal to include co-operatives or internships with University of Victoria students has hit a snag.

Tom Zworski said he has been exploring the idea of launching such a program in partnership with UVic’s law school for some time.

Before moving forward, however, some delicate discussions may be required.

“We have had some challenges through (labour) negotiations,” said Trina Harrison, the city’s human resources director, during a council meeting to discuss the budget. “We have had feedback from the union that they’re not willing to participate.”

John Burrows, representative of CUPE Local 50, was upset by the characterization.

“They haven’t asked us, for starters,” he said. “To imply that we are the ones that are problematic … it pisses me off.”

During the last round of bargaining a year ago, the city put forward a proposal to introduce student co-operatives throughout the city. The proposal was subsequently taken off the table, Burrows said.

During the discussion about hiring law students, Coun. Shellie Gudgeon said the city should prioritize the issue in the interest of keeping young people employed in the community.

The city hired Zworski in 2010 as a way of saving money over contracting out legal services. He’s now hiring a second lawyer, with a target experience level of five to seven years.

The solicitor’s office has a budget of $712,217. This year, salary expenses will rise by approximately $170,000 and contracted legal costs will drop by about the same amount.

rholmen@vicnews.com