Courts workers to strike again over IT system problems

Written by Tevye Markson on 22 November 2022 in News
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Industrial action to include one-day nationwide walkout and series of regional strikes

Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0

HM Courts and Tribunals Service officials will go on strike again next month to protest the rollout of the Common Platform IT system.

Legal advisers and court associates will take nationwide industrial action on Saturday, 3 December, with all 66 courts where members have been balloted by the PCS union going on strike.

PCS has also announced regional strikes on 2, 4 and 5 December in Wales and the southwest and northwest of England, which includes 31 courts in total. Common Platform is a new nationwide case-management system which allows parties including the judiciary, solicitors and barristers, the Crown Prosecution Service and court staff to access information.

But PCS says there has been an “alarming increase in reports of stress and anxiety and long working” since the system’s introduction, as well as reports of musculoskeletal conditions caused by overworking.

"Working through lunches and working late should be the exception, not the norm," the union said.


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PCS’s demands include HMCTS agreeing to: prevent new cases being inputted to Common Platform; carry out a stress survey of all users of the system; and ensure there will be no further job losses related to the introduction of the platform.

The union has also asked HMCTS to carry out an organisational risk assessment on Common Platform. PCS said it believes the agency has avoided this, despite their legal obligation to do so, because the risks identified would "prove that Common Platform is unsustainable and must be removed".   

PCS also wants the Ministry of Justice agency to disclose feedback from sites where Common Platform has been rolled out and publish details of incidents where the system has caused problems in the wider criminal-justice system.

Earlier this month, PCS announced plans to ballot more HMCTS members to go on strike after the agency continued the rollout of the system despite its industrial action. The ballot runs from Wednesday, 23 November until noon on 9 December.

HMCTS had had paused the rollout of Common platform in September in some areas in an attempt to resolve the dispute but ended the suspension in early October.

Members of the agency will not take part in planned national action over pay, redundancy terms and pensions, as only 44% of its eligible union members voted in the national ballot – missing the 50% threshold for action. Of those who did vote, 86% backed strike action.

A HMCTS spokesperson said: “Common Platform is fundamental to modernising the court system – replacing out-of-date systems and freeing up court staff so we can better deliver justice for all. We will continue to work closely with all staff to support them through the transition. We want to thank all the court staff, judges and others who have contributed to its design and implementation so far.”

 

About the author

Tevye Markson is a reporter at PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World, where a version of this story first appeared. He tweets as @TevyeMarkson.

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