Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 16:54 UK

Court staff hold strike over pay

PCS strike action
Union members are unhappy about a 2% pay cap

Hundreds of court staff in Scotland have been holding a day of strike action in a dispute over pay.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said the action had caused disruption to the justice system.

Five smaller courts were forced to close across Scotland, while services at other courts had to be reduced but "essential business" went ahead.

Sportscotland and the National Museums of Scotland were also affected by the strike.

They were joined by members working at the Scottish Courts Service, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

In total, the PCS estimated 1,700 of its members in justice, sportscotland and the National Museums of Scotland have been taking part in the action.

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Striking members of the PCS union explain why they have joined the picket line

The action, which was held the day before a walkout by local government staff, is part of an ongoing campaign by the union against a 2% pay cap introduced by Scottish ministers and was set to be followed by a two week overtime ban.

The pay dispute has also seen previous strike action undertaken by Scottish Government civil service staff.

A revised offer was made to Crown Office staff, but it remained within the 2% limit, which union leaders claim has been instated to fall in line with Westminster pay negotiations.

'Industrial unrest'

A government spokesman said: "The SCS and COPFS pay proposals are subject to the Scottish public sector pay policy which provides for a basic award of 2% with flexibility beyond that to target pay increases where they will make a difference: dealing with low pay and seeking to ensure that public sector employees are recruited, retained and motivated."

He added: "In relation to the SCS, a pay offer has not yet been made to staff and the Scottish Government is still considering the pay proposals submitted by SCS management.

"We would urge unions to wait until a pay offer has been made and negotiate on that basis, rather than take part in strike action that could cause unnecessary disruption to members of the public before the pay offer is even put to them."

PCS banner
Hundreds of court staff were involved in the strike action

Eddie Reilly, PCS Scottish secretary, said: "This is the first departmental strike in the Scottish Courts Service for 30 years.

"As further sections of Scottish ministers' workforce express anger over pay, it seems that Salmond and Swinney are hibernating.

"Unless they resolve these disputes, they are locking themselves into three years of industrial unrest with their own Scottish workforce."

Staff taking part in the action, as well as those working at the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, are also to impose a two-week overtime ban.

Glasgow Sheriff Court, normally the busiest court in Europe, had only three courts running, while at the High Court in Glasgow only three courts out of seven were running.

Elsewhere, court cases have been deferred, with juries and witnesses told not to come in. The National Museum of Scotland has also been shut to the public.

A Scottish Court Service spokesman said: "All courts in Scotland are open and dealing with court business with the exceptions of the sheriff courts at Campbeltown, Dornoch, Stonehaven, Stornoway and Tain where any planned business was previously adjourned.

"Some courts are operating as normal, others have a reduced programme of business or restrictions on phones and public counter services but the Scottish Court Service is confident essential business can be carried out today."


SEE ALSO
Strike could halt justice system
09 Sep 08 |  Scotland
Government 'open' despite strike
31 Jul 08 |  Scotland
Civil servants back strike action
21 Jul 08 |  Scotland

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