PCS wins significant improvements on Covid-19 safety in courts

PCS members in both the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) have both now ended their independent but clearly linked disputes with their employers on Covid-19 safety in court buildings.

The CPS Group has just agreed to end the dispute following concessions and agreements reached following a lengthy set of negotiations with management representatives in HR, Health and Safety and Operations. We now have agreements in place, bringing improvements to CPS Health, Safety and Operational procedures around the Union’s 6 key demands:

  1. A joint review and agreement of what constitutes business critical work
  1. An agreement on (physical) attendance at court on an exceptional and voluntary basis
  1. An agreed triage listing arrangement is in force where difficulties must be addressed in advance and within hours of the court hearing.
  1. There is a suitable and sufficient HMCTS risk assessment process for each individual court building and the findings shared with CPS staff prior to the hearing
  1. There must be a CPS risk assessment for each and every court, which must be conducted in advance of the hearing date and shared with staff and PCS/DTUS 48 hours prior to the hearing
  1. That virtual access to court hearings is made available to Paralegal staff and wherever appropriate Prosecuting Advocates – and that safety and security arrangements are in place

This significant agreement for members in the CPS working in courts came shortly after a similar, but independent dispute by the MoJ Group for member in HMCTS , who had to ballot for Industrial Action to get their employer to listen. The resulting concessions and improvements gained from resulting negotiations include:

  • A risk assessment agreed with the Departmental Unions
  • An agreement to identify court room capacity and maximum occupancy and a commitment to ensuring adherence
  • Maximum capacity levels being identified in discreet public areas including consultation rooms and areas with high foot fall
  • Employment of 260 Covid marshals to patrol public areas and ensure social distancing is maintained
  • A review of listing arrangements
  • A joint statement between the Unions and the employer on the right to remove yourself from dangerous situations
  • An additional 4,500 laptops to support further remote working

There is no doubt that the pressure applied in negotiations from both Groups on their respective employers on these common issues and workplaces helped with our success in resolving both disputes, pressurising senior management in both Departments to communicate more effectively with each other.

In addition and for the first time in my 25 years of being a PCS (and predecessor Unions) representative, we also joined forces with other Trade Unions and professional staff associations, including the POA, NAPO, the Solicitors Associates and Criminal Bar Association, where we took the lead role in organising regular meetings and placing individual as well as combined pressure on the Court Service.

This has been one of the most challenging times of my role as lead lay negotiator for the CPS Group and I’m very pleased that this hard work has brought about key improvements for the members I directly represent and the same has been mirrored in the MoJ by my PCS Democracy Alliance colleagues, supported by our Justice Sector Industrial Officer, and other PCS staff. This is another good and clear example of the achievements of the Left Unity / Democracy Alliance led Union working hard on behalf of our members.

Steve Thorley

CPS Group President and NEC member

Steve is standing in the NEC as part of the Democracy Alliance. Click on the image for more information.