Members of staff at 12 courts began voting today (15 February 2021) on whether to take strike action over safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is calling for the immediate closure of all courts and tribunals in England to ‘provide an immediate circuit break on the transmission of the virus in the community and the [HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS)] estate’ (‘PCS to ballot HMCTS members over safety concerns
’, PCS news release, 10 February 2021). The union is also running what it calls an ‘online consultative ballot’ from 22 February for its members in workplaces other than the 12 targeted for strike action.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said court staff were ‘deeply concerned for their safety’, and that HMCTS’s refusal to ‘agree to our sensible proposals including holding critical cases virtually and mandatory COVID testing for staff, is what has led to this ballot’.
The strike ballots, which are being conducted by post, are being held in the following courts:
•Birmingham Crown Court;
•Cardiff Crown Court;
•Highbury Magistrates’ Court;
•Isleworth Crown Court;
•Leeds Magistrates’ Court;
•Leicester Law Courts;
•Liverpool Law Courts;
•Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square;
•Manchester Crown Court, Minshull Street;
•Snaresbrook Crown Court;
•Southwark Crown Court; and
•Wolverhampton Combined Court.
In response to the union’s strike call, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said the government had been clear throughout the pandemic that ‘justice must continue to be delivered’, adding: ‘Every building we operate meets the government's COVID-secure guidelines, and public health experts have confirmed our arrangements remain sufficient to deal with the new strain of the virus.’