One of the largest trade unions in the UK is asking court staff whether they are prepared to strike over workplace security concerns.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is balloting members in HM Courts & Tribunals Service over what it says is management’s ‘failure to act to address serious and significant health and safety concerns’.
12 courts could potentially be affected, including Southwark Crown Court, Liverpool Law Courts, Birmingham Crown Court and Cardiff Crown Court.
In a statement, PCS said: ‘Given that we have not yet had a commitment from HMCTS to resolve the issues we have outlined we are escalating the dispute and balloting members, with a statutory postal ballot starting on [Monday 15 January] of members in 12 courts asking them if they would be prepared to strike over workplace safety concerns.’
The ballot will close on 5 March. The union is also launching an online consultative ballot for all HMCTS members whose workplace is not included in the list of 12 courts.
PCS is demanding the immediate temporary closure of all courts and tribunals in England, Wales and Scotland; regular testing for staff; and more IT equipment to allow HMCTS staff to work remotely.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: 'Every building we operate meets the government’s Covid-secure guidelines, and public health experts have confirmed our arrangements remain sufficient to deal with the new strain of the virus.
'Positive test numbers are consistent with the wider community and it’s likely that the vast majority contracted the virus outside courts. It is simply untrue to suggest people are at an elevated risk of infection when at a court or tribunal.'