Magistrates’ court staff will begin nine days of strike action later this month over the rollout of HM Courts & Tribunals Service’s Common Platform, which trade union officials say is ‘fundamentally flawed’.
Legal advisers and court associates ‘voted overwhelmingly’ in favour of industrial action, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union announced last month, with 93% of those voting supporting a full strike – though only 61% of the 180 balloted members cast a vote.
The Common Platform – which has managed more than 158,000 criminal cases and is now live in 143 courts, with further rollouts planned up until February – has cost £236m as at the end of March 2021 and HMCTS says it is ‘key to modernising the court system’.
But the platform has been beset by problems since its launch in September 2020 and, according to the PCS, has sent work-related stress and anxiety levels among its members in HMCTS ‘through the roof’.
The union is demanding that no new cases are inputted onto the Common Platform, that HMCTS undertakes a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the system and assurances that there will be no further job losses arising from the system.
PCS said this month’s strike action is in response to HMCTS having behaved ‘disgracefully’ by failing to approach the union to offer a meeting, ‘continuing to gaslight members’ over the ‘success’ of the rollout of the Common Platform and threatening to refuse to pay members if they did not use the platform.
HMCTS maintains that it has engaged extensively with the union and is committed to continuing discussions over the Common Platform.
The union has now served notice on HMCTS that legal advisers and court associates will strike from 10-18 September. It has also announced that a second group of its members working for HMCTS will be balloted from next week following the decision to ‘continue the national roll-out of the Common Platform after months of inaction by HMCTS to resolve the serious and fundamental concerns raised by PCS’.
A HMCTS spokesperson said: ‘We have been working with staff and unions on the rollout of Common Platform since September 2020 and it has already dealt with over 158,000 criminal cases. The Common Platform is key to modernising the court system, making it more efficient and fit for purpose.’
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