Practice and Procedure

Strikes and work to rule will hit courts from Thursday

PUBLISHED May 8, 2012

Tuesday 08 May 2012 by John Hyde

Hundreds of court staff will refuse overtime until August as the public sector pensions row threatens to create a backlog in the court service.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union are due to walk out on Thursday for a one-day strike over cuts to their pensions. The union has also confirmed that members will work to rule until 31 July, refusing requests to work overtime.

The Gazette revealed earlier this year that 1,200 posts had been cut by HM Courts and Tribunals Service. The union aims to expose managers' reliance on staff increasing their workloads to cover shortages.

Last summer, the service relied heavily on overtime workers to cope in the aftermath of the August riots and any repeat in the next two months would put severe pressure on courts.

Stakeholders were warned by HMCTS this week to expect priority to be given to urgent business if the strike goes ahead.

In a letter from the HMCTS emergency steering group, the government said disruption was likely to vary from region to region.

'Our aim is to ensure that HMCTS will be able to support court and tribunal sittings at a substantial number of premises,' said the group's chair Shaun McNally.

This week the PCS was showing no sign it is minded to call off the strike or subsequent work to rule plan. The union says pension contributions are set to increase over the next two years, with the state pension age having already risen to 68.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said: 'Courts officers and legal workers are angry that their pensions are being raided to pay for a deficit caused by greed and recklessness in the financial markets and a lack of political will to regulate them.'

The last strike to affect court services was in November, when PCS members joined other unions for the biggest public sector walkout in a generation. HMCTS said 11 court buildings - mainly in the north and Midlands - were affected, with disruption also reported in St Helens, Nottingham, Liverpool, Northampton, Stoke and Westminster.