Magistrates court staff demand 6 per cent rise

MAGISTRATES court staff are threatening to work to rule if their demands for a 6 per cent pay increase and a £600 lump sum are not met, The Lawyer can reveal.

If the threat is carried out, magistrates courts could be plunged into chaos with ushers, clerks and administrative staff refusing to work outside their contracted hours.

Rosie Eagleson, general secretary of the Association of Magisterial Officers (AMO), comments: “We are talking to members about the possibility of a work to rule.

“Court staff work through their lunch breaks, after normal office hours and basically put a lot of good will into making sure delays are reduced as far as possible.”

AMO is meeting pay negotiators from the Local Government Management Board (LGMB) next week, who represent magistrates court committees at the bargaining table.

Sources there say AMO’s demands are equivalent to a 10 per cent increase, which is “unrealistic”.

In the past, the LGMB has tended to offer pay awards in line with other local government settlements, which this year amount to 2.1 per cent. AMO would see this as a derisory offer.

Eagleson, whose union represents 65 per cent of magistrates court staff, including about 1,500 lawyers, says: “We are asking for 6 per cent because we need to catch up with comparable groups.

“We have had below average inflation pay rises for the past five years. We are actually becoming the poor relations of the public sector. For example, our lawyers are getting paid less than Crown Prosecution Service lawyers.”

The one-off £600 payment AMO is demanding for all its members will be of greatest benefit to the lowest paid ushers, who earn up to £10,500. Court clerks, many of whom are qualified lawyers, earn between £15,000 and £31,000.

LGMB spokesman Richard Cook says: “We would hope to negotiate constructively. The magistrates court committees are subject to tight financial constraints. Affordability is always the big factor.”