This is the third weekly HMCTS industrial relations briefing and includes updates on Reform, our meeting with management on 16 April and IT.
At the outset of the emergency that PCS were given assurances that there would be a pause on Reform during Covid-19 Emergency. An exception to this would be those Reform projects that would assist in delivering urgent and essential court business during the period of the emergency.
Comments made by the Chief Executive over recent weeks and reinforced at the meeting at the meeting on 14 April (reported upon in Industrial Relations Briefing 2) raised concerns that HMCTS were seeking to go further than this and that not only would Reform work would continue throughout the period of the emergency but some areas of Reform work would be accelerated to support the current emergency and beyond. These would principally be those initiatives that would allow for remote hearings to take place and those that allow work to be done from home.
Meeting with Employer on 16 April
PCS attended a meeting on the 16 April with HMCTS to get further details on their plans on Reform. We came out of the meeting extremely alarmed about the approach HMCTS is adopting. Whilst they were keen to emphasise they wanted to fully consult with PCS on their plans it is now clear that rather than consult on temporary measures necessary to get us through the emergency that once some of these initiatives are introduced they would be permanent and irreversible.
Not only did we express our concerns that our ability to consult with members is severely limited during this crisis but the ability for other stakeholders including other justice agencies, professional court users and third sector bodies that represent victims and indeed defendants would be similarly constrained. Given that these programmes may change how justice is done for generations it is obscene they are introduced with the ability for their plans to scrutinised and challenged through the normal channels is so severely restricted.
It has left PCS with the distasteful impression that HMCTS appear to be taking advantage of the national emergency to bring Reform through the back door.
Cloud Video Platform
Having indicated a full commitment to consultation, PCS become aware following receipt of a number of emails from concerned members that HMCTS is seeking to implement without any communication let alone any consultation the introduction of a Cloud Video Platform (CVP). Roll out in some locations we understand has already started.
PCS has serious and fundamental concerns about the roll out phase of the CVP and has made urgent representations to employer representatives. We are currently awaiting a formal response to our representations and a further and detailed briefing will be issued as soon as possible.
In the interim our initial advice to members is that the use of personal devices is entirely voluntary and we would advise that members do not use their personal device to undertake this work.
Laptops and other IT
PCS has been pressuring HMCTS on the supply of Laptops and IT equipment to enable more members to work from home. We are advised that despite some supply chain issues nearly 2,000 have recently been issued with priority being given to the RCJ and London.
National Business Centres have received further supplies and most regions have received additional supplies although the priorities within the regions has not been made clear to us. We are told they vary across them.
Another 1,000 will be distributed in about two weeks time, with a further 6,000 on order. Further supplies are available from previously returned machines that can be sourced centrally.
Some staff have been told they can use their own IT equipment, although the logistics and security implications of this are not entirely clear and we have asked further information and consultation upon this. No member of staff is under any obligation to use their own IT and PCS would advise any individual considering doing so to remind themselves of the provisions of the departments various IT policies and to ensure they comply with them. In doubt we would advise you to err on the side of caution.