Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/333/5625
Around The Picket Lines
High Court, London
DEPARTMENT FOR Constitutional Affairs (DCA) staff outside the Royal Courts of Justice, picketed all the main entrances.
Management had to ask barristers, solicitors, and the public to use a small side entrance. This produced a queue snaking back over 400 yards outside the famous front of the High Court.
A few union activists from the various departments spoke to the socialist.
"Today has been really good. Most people are respecting the picket line.
"Management's heavy-handed tactics have wound up the staff even more. The Permanent Secretary who is on over £100,000 has angered people by saying that £11,000 is a decent wage.
"There have been over 100 people join the union in the last couple of weeks. I'd like to see the union be even more co-ordinated in future actions, with rallies and walk-outs, including linking up with other unions.
"I'd ask other trade unionists to support us in any way they can - whether it's standing with us on the picket line, spreading the word or donating to our strike hardship fund. Most civil servants earn less than £15,000 a year."
Clayeon McKenzie, PCS branch chair, Home Office
"It's been going very well today. We've had a really significant impact on the number of courts open.
"There is a lot of anger about the below-inflation pay offer which was imposed three days into a ballot of the members. So it's about a lousy pay offer and it's also about the democratic right of our members to reject or accept a pay offer.
"We've had dozens of new members joining us, so that we're now the largest branch in DCA. The threat of action has had an impact on management and the main entrance here is not actually open.
"After today we'd like to see management come back to the table but if they don't there will be calls to take further action."
Mike Loates, PCS branch secretary, covering the Royal Courts of Justice
THE STRIKE by PCS members in the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) has hit management in West Yorkshire hard.
On the first day, Leeds Crown Court was due to hear 13 cases but only five went ahead. That was only because two of the cases were heard by high court judges whose clerks are in effect personal assistants who are not in PCS.
Management attempted to open more courts by bringing in agency staff but the locally based judges refused to work with them!
In Bradford only two out of eight scheduled cases went ahead and the County Court offices were closed. Pickets said they were determined to make DCA management come back to negotiations with an improved offer.
Alistair Tice and Colin Wray spoke to pickets outside Sheffield Crown Courts:
Richard, an admin assistant, told us he was on only £15,000 after 15 years service: "I'm so low-paid that if I issued a summons at the court I work at, I would be 'fees exempt'".
Martin Nolan, PCS branch secretary, asked: "Has Ian Magee (Corporate Board leader - Office of Constitutional Affairs) had his pay award imposed, was his pay rise lower than last year, was it unconsolidated for his pension? Not damn likely but that's what we've got!"
He told us that 80% of PCS members were on strike. Howells' Solicitors had them brought tea and coffee. Even some judges had been 'shocked' at how low their staff's wages are.
Top story though was the report from Portsmouth that a jury had refused to cross the picket line!
In The Socialist 7 February 2004:
War and occupation
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis