Courts workers agree to end dispute over IT system troubles

Union’s agreement with HMCTS includes concessions over how cases are inputted and admission of faults with new platform

HM Courts and Tribunals Service officials have voted to end the long-running dispute over the Common Platform case management system – although union chiefs will continue to oppose the case-management IT system.

The PCS union asked its members to approve an offer made by HMCTS last week, which included giving autonomy to legal advisers and court associates in deciding which cases are inputted out of court. The offer also acknowledgement that there are faults with the platform.

PCS said HMCTS had also offered assurances that its “staff blame culture” over the IT system will end and that action will be taken to combat Common Platform-related stress and anxiety. HMCTS has also committed to protect 450-plus jobs until at least 2024, the union said.

Some 66% of the legal advisers and court associates who were balloted voted to accept the offer, which followed months of strikes in dozens of courts and several attempts by HMCTS to resolve the dispute through pausing the IT system rollout.

Mark Serwotka, PCS’s general secretary, said: “This is a huge victory for PCS members in HMCTS. Through their resilience and sustained campaign of strike action from September 2022, they have brought HMCTS to the table. Not only will the offer improve the lives of those working on the Common Platform system, but PCS has within the agreement the tools to challenge and hold HMCTS to account on the impact of the Common Platform system going forward.”

Common Platform allows parties including the judiciary, solicitors and barristers, the Crown Prosecution Service and court staff to access case information.

PCS said it will continue its campaign to scrap the IT system, which is currently live in 173 courts.

“Whilst the concessions have been accepted, there is no room for HMCTS to be complacent,” Karen Watts, a PCS rep in HMCTS, said. “Our political campaign to end Common Platform and protect justice will continue.”

PCS’s concerns about the IT system include an “alarming” increase in reports of stress and anxiety and working long hours since its introduction in September 2020, as well as reports of musculoskeletal conditions caused by overworking.

HMCTS, however, has described Common Platform as “fundamental” to modernising the criminal court system. It has said the technology will replace out-of-date systems and free up court staff “so we can better deliver justice for all”.

Tevye Markson

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