Staff set new strike dates in HMCTS dispute

Legal advisors and court associates at 65 centres will stage nine days of industrial action
Newcastle Crown Court and Magistrates Court, which is one of the 65 justice centres where strike action is due to take place. Photo: Google Maps

By Jim Dunton

10 Oct 2022

Officials working for HM Courts and Tribunals Service have confirmed nine days of strike action later this month in protest at the rollout of the unpopular Common Platform IT system.

Industrial action by legal advisers and court associates across England and Wales had been planned for last month but was postponed because of the period of national mourning following the death of the Queen.

Last month’s strike action was due to affect 55 magistrates courts, family courts and county courts. The PCS union said members who are officials at a further 10 justice centres had now voted to strike over concerns with the rollout of Common Platform and would be joining this month’s action.

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

But PCS says stress and anxiety levels among officials has gone “through the roof” since the system’s introduction. It says the action – which will run from 22 to 30 October – is designed to highlight the need for dialogue with HMCTS management over Common Platform’s  negative impact on members’ health, safety and welfare.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the union had been left with no choice but to call strike action after a pause in the system’s rollout last month was ended.

“Managers are ignoring the evidence in front of them – that Common Platform is simply unworkable,” he said. 

“It’s adversely affecting our members’ health and their ability to do their jobs and is detrimental to the delivery of justice. HMCTS managers should listen to our members and stop the roll out immediately.”  

PCS argues that although HMCTS claims system trials for Common Platform that took place in three counties were a success, an in-house survey revealed that tasks took longer, stress levels among staff increased and work-life balance was negatively impacted.

The union said the HMCTS survey data had also confirmed staff had to work longer hours to record results onto the system, “often until midnight”.

An HMCTS spokesperson said a total of 142 staff had voted to strike out of a workforce of roughly 19,000.

“Common Platform is fundamental to modernising the court system – replacing out-of-date systems and freeing up court staff for other vital work,” the spokesperson said.

“We will continue to work closely with all staff to support them through this transition and want to thank all the court staff, judges and others who have contributed to its design and implementation so far.”

HMCTS said that as of September 30, Common Platform was live in 143 courts: 49 crown courts and 94 magistrates courts. It said the figure meant 63% of all criminal courts were managing cases on the system.

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