LCD caves in to strike threat by court union

The Lord Chancellor's Department (LCD) has bowed to union demands at Bromley County Court for more funding after staff there unanimously voted in favour of strike action.

Following intensive negotiations, the LCD agreed last week to an emergency package of measures with the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) to deal with staff shortages and low morale at the court.

The move has persuaded the 27 PCS members at the court to suspend the planned five-day strike, although they are threatening to stage another ballot in the spring if conditions do not improve.

As part of the emergency package, a recovery team – staffed by volunteers from other courts in the London Group of County Courts – is already in place at Bromley and a new court manager has also been appointed.

Other measures in the package include the hiring of five new permanent members of staff and three more casual workers.

Only last month David Marsh, manager of the London Group of County Courts, told staff and local law firms at a stormy court users' meeting: “I would love to have more staff but we do not have the budget for them.”

Hailing the deal as “pretty good all-round”, the PCS' national officer for the LCD, Brian Sturtevant, said: “Customers in Bromley should see an immediate improvement as the arrears are cleared.”

He added that if the PCS was not satisfied with progress, then it would re-ballot its members.

He also called on the LCD to lobby the Treasury for more money to relieve the pressures on the courts. He said the courts are struggling to cope with the implementation of the Woolf reforms and the introduction of a major new computer system.

Sturtevant warned: “Unless the Government improves staffing, then there are going to be a lot more Bromleys.”