Staff take action over lay-offs at London magistrates court

The first industrial action at a magistrates court since 1987 is being taken by support staff in north London.

Employees at Haringey Magistrates Court are refusing to work overtime after four of their colleagues were made redundant. Ushers, administrative staff and clerks are also taking a full hour for lunch as part of their campaign against management. They have even threatened a full-scale strike.

General secretary of the Association of Magisterial Officers Rosie Eagleson said she hoped the issue would be taken to the conciliation service Acas. She expressed indignation that the redundancies had been made “without consultation of any kind”.

The redundancies were made after outside consultants looked at ways of cutting costs.

Union officials met the Magistrates Court Committee, which runs the court, and demanded that the sacked workers be reinstated. But manage- ment refused and called for the industrial action to be abandoned before negotiations with the union are resumed.

Eagleson said the aim was to keep disruption to the public at a minimum but to inconvenience magistrates.

This is the first time a magistrates court has been hit by industrial action in 10 years.

In 1987, Inner London Magistrates Courts Staff, part of the Civil and Public Servants Association, took industrial action over pay. The action was part of a rolling programme of strikes by the CPSA which also affected the work of the Crown Prosecution Service and the Lord Chancellor's Department.

Recently, industrial action by lawyers over the way the CPS is being run was narrowly averted.

Lawyers had claimed that staff cuts made it impossible for prosecutors to review cases properly and that a cut in the budget threatened efficiency.

But plans for a one-day strike have been shelved while further efforts are made by the lawyers' representatives to gauge the strength of opposition to CPS cutbacks.