Magistrates’ clerks and managers are on strike for the first time in the courts’ 800-year history today in London and 20 other city centres.
The action has been caused by below inflation pay rises and increasing unrest after the creation of a new body in the courts, Her Majesty’s Court Service (HMCS). It is being led by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and Prospect.
Around 330 magistrates’ courts, including ones in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Nottingham and Leicester, have been closed for 24 hours, and unions have predicted that more will be disrupted.
Prospect national secretary Alan Leighton said: “Our members are not eager to disrupt the smooth running of the magistrates’ courts, but feel forced into taking action because they are having to bear the brunt of a lack of funding to cover the start-up costs of HMCS.”
Workers have been offered an average 3.7% pay rise, but the unions want more.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary at PCS, said: “Members have grown increasingly angry over a pay deal that should have been settled months ago, and now feel compelled to take this historic step of strike action.
“With support for strike action strong, management need to negotiate meaningfully if they want to avert closure of courts and postponement of cases in England and Wales.”
Serwotka said more than 50% of administration staff working in magistrates’ courts outside of London earned less than £14,000 per annum.