A courts service strike over government privatisation plans has moved a step nearer after a union ballot registered a vote for action.
If other ballots produce the same result, unions will call a strike over staff fears concerning the £60 million project finance initiative (PFI) "outsourcing" of computer and administration systems in County and Crown Courts.
Last week's ballot of Civil and Public Servants Association (CPSA) members in the LCD information systems division is due to be followed by one from the National Union of Civil and Public Servants. It could result in a one-day blackout of computers in London.
Court staff nationally are also being balloted for a week-long national strike, the result of which will be known on 1 December. This is the day that LCD chiefs expect to have completed evaluation of bids from four companies.
Staff have received letters from management saying the ballots are "premature", said a union source. A source in the Royal Courts of Justice also confirmed that High Court judges had been given copies of the LCD's tender document.
Brian Sturtevant, CPSA national officer, said the unions would meet Court Service chief executive Michael Huebner and the expected 'yes' vote for action would be a "powerful weapon" in persuading the LCD to halt the privatisation.
"We are not convinced by the management's argument. We remain seriously concerned that the bidders have been invited to bid for any administration work," said Sturtevant.