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Hundreds of court staff support strike over Common Platform, union says

By Sam Tobin >>

Hundreds of court staff have said they will support strike action over the rollout of the new courts case management system, their trade union has said.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) opened a consultative ballot last month over the Common Platform, which it says is ‘fundamentally flawed’ and has sent work-related stress and anxiety levels among its members in HM Courts & Tribunals Service ‘through the roof’.

One lawyer told the union: ‘I studied hard and got into debt to be an HMCTS lawyer. I’m now a data entry clerk, working with a system so poor in design it’s making me and colleagues ill. We deliver public disservice, not justice.’

Another PCS member said: ‘I cannot cope working with a system that is so incompatible with my role as a lawyer. The stress is phenomenal. I can cope even less with the constant gaslighting by HMCTS.’

Support for possible strike action among members who voted was 96.3% on a turnout of 57.2%. PCS said the results ‘should send a very clear message to HMCTS that they must now act and completely suspend the Common Platform’.

The union said it will seek an urgent meeting with HMCTS on its demands, which include that no new cases are put on the Common Platform, that case results are recorded outside of the courtroom and that HMCTS carries out a ‘stress survey’ of Common Platform users.

The Common Platform, which is currently live in 101 courts, is intended to enable parties in a criminal case to access relevant information on one system but has been beset by problems since its initial rollout last September.

Further rollout was paused in August and September due to ‘some difficult problems and setbacks’, the lord chief justice revealed in October – which the Law Society said ‘illustrates the importance of not overestimating what technology can do’.

An HMCTS spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to working with staff and unions on the rollout of the Common Platform. 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 administere.

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)