A trade union representing court staff has today opened a consultative ballot over the rollout of the new courts case management system, which could lead to a further ballot on strike action.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) says the Common Platform is ‘not fit for purpose’ and that its use has sent work-related stress and anxiety levels among its members in HM Courts & Tribunals Service ‘through the roof’. The union also said the platform threatens 3,000 jobs. HM Courts & Tribunals Service said it does not ‘recognise the number of job losses quoted’.

The Common Platform, which is currently live in 101 courts, is intended to enable parties in a criminal case to access relevant information on one system but has been beset by problems since its initial rollout last September.

Further rollout was paused in August and September due to ‘some difficult problems and setbacks’, the lord chief justice revealed last month – which the Law Society said ‘illustrates the importance of not overestimating what technology can do’.

PCS is asking its members whether they are opposed to new cases being placed on the Common Platform, which is due to be rolled out to all criminal courts by March 2022, and is also calling for ‘an organisational risk assessment’ of the impact of the platform on staff.

The union’s general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘HMCTS have launched a system which is not fit for purpose and has caused staff huge levels of stress and anxiety. Instead of dealing with the real problems in the justice system, such as staff shortages and court closures, they are relying on a flawed system to muddle through.

‘This won’t wash with the thousands of our members who are set to lose their jobs because of the Common Platform. They have had enough and will now have their voice heard. Depending on the result of the consultative ballot, we will not rule out an industrial action ballot in the future.’

An HMCTS spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to working with staff and unions on the rollout of the Common Platform, and do not recognise the number of job losses quoted. The welfare of our staff is a priority and they have been involved from the start in designing and implementing a system that will revolutionise the way that the criminal justice system is administered.’