25/11/2005

Magistrate's court staff balloted on strike action

More than 7,000 workers in magistrates’ courts are being sent ballot papers for strike action over pay.

The one-day strike, which would affect courts in England and Wales, is being planned in response to a 2.2% pay increase, which the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union says, would be below inflation for the majority of staff.

The result of the ballot among staff, who run magistrates courts and provide legal advice to magistrates, is due on December 9.

The union said that the pay dispute began when magistrates’ court staff were transferred to the civil service into a new combined agency to run magistrates, crown and county courts called Her Majesty’s Court Service (HMCS) in April. The PCS accused the Department of Constitutional Affairs of failing to properly fund the start up costs of establishing the HMCS.

Rosie Eagleson, PCS national secretary, said that low pay was a “major factor” throughout the courts, with 51% of court staff earning less than £15,000 per year.

She said: “Balloting for strike action is not a step we take lightly, but members are growing increasingly angry with an attempt by management to further devalue their pay by proposing a cost of living increase, which is below inflation for the majority of staff. It is an unacceptable situation, which is made worse by the fact that the pay deal for magistrates staff should have been sorted out over six months ago.”

Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary, said: “The intolerable situation with magistrate staff’s pays underlines the mess that civil service pay is in and illustrates the stark differences in the way the government treats its own workforce in comparison to the rest of the public sector.

"Members are right to be angry and will vote for industrial action to secure justice on their pay. It is high time that their important contribution is recognized with fair pay.”

(KMcA/SP)

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