The courts will rely on their depleted ranks of senior managers to remain open during industrial action, when Ministry of Justice members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) strike on 30 June in protest at proposed changes to public sector pensions and job cuts.
If strikers succeed, the Supreme Court, the Royal Courts of Justice and higher-tier metropolitan courts, together with tribunals, all face day-long closure.
The more senior posts were the first positions to be cut by the MoJ, reducing the capacity available to continuity planners.
A spokesperson for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) told the Gazette that ‘custody cases, urgent family cases and out-of-hours services’ were priorities in its contingency plans. Whether or not the Supreme Court closes will be another test of the action’s effectiveness. It is on the strikers’ hitlist, but a spokesperson for the court said that it is expected to function as normal.
Industrial action will also include an overtime ban throughout July, which will further frustrate attempts to clear the resulting backlog of cases. In addition to the courts, PCS members at MoJ headquarters at Queen Anne’s Gate in London, administrative staff in the prison service, and staff working at the Youth Justice Board and the Parole Board will participate in the strike action and the overtime ban.
Norina O’Hare, PCS national officer with responsibility for justice and prosecution, told the Gazette: ‘MoJ restructuring plans severely cut management posts and, in the courts and tribunal services in particular, we have seen existing posts downgraded.’
O’Hare noted that managers’ anger is expected to compound the impact of industrial action. ‘People who manage large metropolitan courts, with very significant responsibilities, are looking at a reduction in their status,’ she said. ‘They are worried and angry. We believe courts will be closed on 30 June.’