Season of staff disruption over pay kicks off at Law Society

Accountants and investigative staff are set to follow the first strike in the Law Society's 172-year history by a work-to-rule aimed at causing maximum disruption.

On Monday the majority of the 45 staff at the society's monitoring unit and investigation accountants department were due to go out on a one-day strike over pay, and not as the Law Society had earlier claimed, reduced car allowances.

Harminder Singh, regional officer for the trade union MSF, has revealed the strike may be the first of a series of disruptions. He said that union members were due to meet on Monday to decide what further action to take.

“It's likely to include a ban on all of the work that staff carry out which is not in their contracts, such as the overtime work that goes unclaimed,” he said.

Law Society council members, who have all been written to by the union, expressed concern over the strike at the council meeting last week.

Council member David Savage said: “I am alarmed to hear that staff are in a position where they feel they have to strike rather than being listened to.”

The union's letter told council members that the society's self-regulatory responsibility was being threatened by the low pay of investigative staff. Singh said there were already six investigative staff vacancies.

Secretary general Jane Betts had “misjudged the mood of staff”, Singh told The Lawyer. He also denied an earlier claim by Betts that the underlying cause of the strike was “uncertainty” over plans for a merger of the two investigative units.

He said: “The issue is pay. We have conducted a study which shows Law Society staff receive £6,000 less than employees doing the same kind of job in the private sector. We have been in negotiations for several months. We asked the Law Society to make a pay review a priority, which they have not done.”

Law Society spokeswoman Barbara Cahalane said when staff raised the pay issue last Christmas, the society conducted a salary review, which found “we were paying broadly within the range of the market”.

She pointed out that the society then made a “good-will” salary increase of £1,000 to all investigative staff.