Court staff who are members of the civil service’s biggest union have issued a resounding vote of support for potential strike action over problems with the new Common Platform digital case management system.
PCS’s consultative ballot of HM Courts and Tribunals Service staff members found 96.3% say they would back walkouts if senior managers fail to respond reasonably to concerns and meet the union’s “achievable demands” in relation to the “fundamentally flawed” system.
PCS said the ballot, which closed yesterday, had a response rate of 57.2% and the sentiment it reflected needed to be taken seriously by senior management.
“These results should send a very clear message to HMCTS that they must now act and completely suspend the Common Platform,” it said in a statement.
“Failure to do so will result in the progression of PCS members' desire for a statutory strike action ballot.”
Last month PCS said stress and anxiety levels among officials had gone “through the roof” since the introduction of Common Platform began in September 2020. It said the system had been beset with technical problems and delays that had slowed cases and added to backlogs.
It also said the system was threatening 3,000 jobs at the service. HMCTS disputed the figure and said current expectations for headcount reductions related to the rollout of Common Platform were “far lower”.
Armed with the result of the consultative ballot, PCS said it would now be seeking talks with HMCTS management to discuss its demands for change in relation to Common Platform.
They include a pause on new cases being added to the system; a guarantee that no further jobs will be lost because of the platform; an organisational risk-assessment for Common Platform; and proper resourcing for individual risk assessments.
The union is also calling for the disclosure of early-adopter feedback on design-functionality flaws with Common Platform and data on incidents where incorrect court results – or other errors – have created problems for the criminal-justice system.
An HMCTS spokesperson said Common Platform was a large and vital system that would help make the criminal justice system more effective and efficient by allowing all parties involved in a case to access information on one system for the first time.
“We are committed to working with staff and unions on the rollout of the Common Platform,” they said.
“The welfare of our staff is a priority and they have been involved from the start in designing and implementing a system that will revolutionise the way that the criminal justice system is administered.”