HMCTS Reform - Members' update

14 Mar 2019

Members have raised a series of concerns arising from the HMCTS reform programme. These include promises about keeping existing working patterns not being honoured, new work streams not yet on track and staff continuing to be engaged on legacy work, unresolved complaints about the mapping and matching one to one process and job security for staff in a number of locations.

PCS instigated the Collective Engagement Framework (CEF) Dispute Resolution Procedure (DRP) over the process followed by HMCTS to stand-up the CTSCS in January.

The DRP is a three-stage process that needs to be implemented before PCS can take industrial action on the issues subject to dispute.

The first stages of the process were problematic with HMCTS unwilling to move on any of our key areas of disagreement.

The second stage of the process was more productive and this resulted in agreement of our proposals for a pilot for the CTSC working hours which protects the terms and conditions and working patterns for all existing HMCTS staff and ensures that new staff are employed on existing terms and conditions of employment

Some progress was made on the other key areas of dispute, namely moving closer to our aims for an agreed Memorandum of Understanding that codifies how future changes will be managed including a clause within the MOU for mandatory discussions on the need for, timings of and scope of future VEDS exercises and a means of establishing staff preferences should that process be necessary. 

Work also commenced work on the terms of reference for a review of the mapping and matching and post mapping matching exercise that resulted in 1400 staff failing to be placed in the new CTSC structure.

This progress was sufficient for the GEC to consider our position in relation to the dispute.

The GEC decided that we would offer to suspend the dispute whilst that work continued but with a caveat that if insufficient progress was made or we failed to reach agreement that we would re-instigate the dispute straight to Stage 3 which takes the dispute to Permanent Secretary level.  The GEC also made it clear that because HMCTS had continued to make changes during the dispute PCS would not consider itself to be bound by the normal conventions about not progressing industrial action during the dispute process.

Unfortunately, HMCTS rejected the offer and stated that we either consider we have made sufficient progress that we walk away from the dispute or we remain in dispute. They also challenged our right to consult with members on next steps including industrial actions if we remain in dispute.

The GEC had decided it cannot walk away from the dispute when matters are still unresolved and so we have informed HMCTS and the MoJ that we will escalate the matter to Stage 3. We have also reiterated our position that because HMCTS did not play by the rules of the DPR then PCS is not obligated to do so either.

Although disappointed by HMCTS’s apparent intransigence on what was a genuine offer to try and move forward with the dispute the timing of their response could not have been be more fortuitous.

There is widespread concern amongst members, professional court users and political and media commentators that Reform is in a state of chaos. A series of IT outages received nationwide press attention to the problems in the justice system and concerns over digitalisation. Following the damning report of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee in July 2018 HMCTS is now required to give evidence to the Justice Accounts Committee. PCS has already submitted our written evidence to this committee which is available here. (insert link)

Members working in CTSCS have complained that the promises made about keeping existing working patterns are not being honoured and that new work streams are not yet on track and that many staff are engaged in legacy work. It is important that impacted members protect their contractual rights and a duress letter is being circulated by PCS that members should sign. 

If all this was not enough to suggest that cracks may be appearing in the Reform Programme HMCTS announced last week that the Reform end date has been moved back a year to 2023.

It is also fortuitous because the ballot for the national pay campaign opens this week on 18 March running until 28 April. A resounding yes vote in the pay campaign will not only increase the chances of us winning a better pay deal across the civil services but in the same way as last year’s overwhelming rejection of MEP strengthened our bargaining position with HMCTS on their proposed changes to terms and conditions in the CTSCS, beating the 50% threshold will demonstrate that we are a fighting union with members willing to challenge unfairness collectively and demonstrably able to deliver a result on a statutory ballot.(click here for the latest on the pay campaign

PCS recognises the huge impact Reform is having on HMCTS members and agreement has been reached with the National Disputes Committee that if necessary the MoJ Group can run a specific HMCTS industrial Action campaign parallel to the national pay campaign. The prospect of targeted selected action in HMCTS from two fronts will risk exposing further cracks in what appears to be an increasingly fragile reform programme.

Next Steps

PCS is committed to resolving the dispute and our wider concerns on reform with HMCTS through the Dispute Resolution Procedure and through the normal industrial relations mechanisms wherever possible. However, if that fails we are committed to protect members jobs and terms and conditions and we will therefore be consulting with members on what next steps should be taken to achieve this including industrial action if necessary. It is important that all members complete the survey on HMCTS Reform that the union will shortly issue. Please complete this honestly and give us your views on the action that we should take.  

The GEC will review progress on the pay campaign and on the dispute. If we have been unable to reach agreement or have made insufficient progress on the dispute then the GEC will launch a consultation exercise on the next steps including what any industrial action in the HMCTS may be most effective.

What you can do:

  1. Vote YES in the national pay ballot – a strong turnout strengthens our bargaining position with HMCTS
  2. If you are working in a CTSC and are concerned about the working hours – we will be publishing a duress letter for you to send to HMCTS to reinforce that you are working these new hours under duress and this cannot be construed as a change to your terms and conditions or working arrangements – please complete this when its available
  3. If you were negatively affected by the Mapping & Matching Process and the Post Mapping Process then send us the details to this address (insert) we will collate this information and submit to the Mapping and Matching Review.
  4. Ask your local rep or you branch about setting up a workplace committee in your workplace. This is a committee of local members that identity the key issues in your workplace and informs your branch and the GEC of the key organising and bargaining priorities.
  5. Regularly visit the MoJ page of the PCS website for the latest updates.

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