Criminal barristers vote in favour of indefinite strike from September
The latest strikes come as part of a row with the Government over jobs and pay
Criminal barristers in England and Wales have voted in favour of an all-out strike from September 5, the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) said.
Members of the CBA have been walking out on alternate weeks but were balloted on whether to escalate the industrial action with an indefinite, uninterrupted strike that would start on September 5.
The ballot closed at midnight on Sunday and the result was announced on Monday morning.
According to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures, more than 6,000 court hearings have been disrupted as a result of the dispute over conditions and Government-set fees for legal aid advocacy work.
Data released under freedom of information laws show that during the first 19 days of industrial action – between June 27 and August 5 – there were 6,235 court cases disrupted, including 1,415 trials, across England and Wales.
The CBA said the action was already having a “devastating impact on the ability of our crown courts to function with any semblance of normality” and that the “continuing refusal of the Justice Secretary to negotiate a fair settlement with criminal barristers comes at a very heavy price”.
In a statement published on its website when it opened the ballot earlier this month, the CBA said members had indicated there should be “no pausing or halting of the ongoing programme of strike action”, adding: “It has become clear that a significant proportion of our members wish to be given an option to escalate our current action towards an uninterrupted strike in order to exert maximum leverage upon Government at this critical time.”
It added: “Given the expectation that the ongoing strike action will inevitably lead to the progressive incapacitation of court business, there is no doubt that resolving this dispute will be the critical priority of any incoming Justice Secretary.”
Criminal barristers are due to receive a 15 percent fee rise from the end of September, meaning they will earn £7,000 more per year.
But there has been anger that the proposed pay rise will not be made effective immediately and will only apply to new cases, not those already sitting in the backlog waiting to be dealt with by courts.