Picket line at Manchester court as staff take part in nine days of strike action over controversial IT system

The courts’ service is embroiled in a major dispute with a trade union over the introduction of a new digital case management system.

Court staff gathered on the picket line in Manchester as part of nine days of strike action over the roll-out of a controversial new IT system.

Employees made their feelings clear as they demonstrated outside Manchester Magistrates’ Court on Monday (24 October) during a nationwide walk-out by members of the PCS trade union.

Court staff have downed tools over the rollout of the digital case management system Common Platform, with the union saying employees’ concerns about the computer system are not being taken on board by bosses. Employees at dozens of courthouses across the country are involved in the walk-out, which began on Saturday (22 October). ManchesterWorld has approached the courts’ service for comment.

Why was there a picket line at Manchester Magistrates’ Court and why are court staff on strike?

Legal advisors and court associates at 68 courts across England and Wales who are members of the PCS trade union are taking part in a nine-day walk-out over the introduction of the Common Platform digital case management system.

Manchester Magistrates’ Court was one of the three places in England where workers on strike formed picket lines on Monday (24 October). The picket lines were in place for several hours in the morning.

As well as Manchester Magistrates’ Court a number of other courthouses in Greater Manchester are affected by the industrial action, with staff at the magistrates’ courts in Bolton, Stockport, Tameside and Wigan and Leigh also taking part. The strike action lasts until 30 October. It was originally supposed to take place in September but was put on hold following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. During the postponement period a further 13 courthouses joined the original 55 legal venues in taking part in strike action.

The trade union says the employer of its members, His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS), had paused the introduction of Common Purpose to allow for negotiations. However, it says it has now pressed on with the roll-out of the system despite its unpopularity with staff.

What has been said about the strike action?

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members in courts feel a huge amount of resentment and resolve because their voices are being ignored by managers. We’ve asked managers to stop the roll-out of the scheme and they haven’t. They haven’t even paused for negotiations to take place. They talk a lot about feedback, but they’re not listening. They’re just ploughing on, regardless of the consequences.

“This is not a new scheme. When it was introduced two years ago, we were told there would be teething problems and that once it’s embedded it’ll get better. It hasn’t. Our members are working longer hours, it adversely impacts on their family lives and, importantly, on their ability to deliver justice.”

HMCTS has been contacted for comment.