COURTS fines staff at a borough magistrates’ court will strike tomorrow (Thursday) against plans to privatise their work.
Staff at North Tyneside Magistrates Court will strike against government plans to sell off the criminal enforcement section of the Ministry of Justice, opening up the collection and administration of fines imposed by the courts to private bailiffs.
As well as fears about cuts to pay and working conditions, the walkout from 2pm to 4pm – the first in a rolling programme of industrial action – will highlight the threats to this important
public service, including much lower collection rates by private bailiffs and ‘cherry-picking’ of easier-to-collect cases by private companies, who also often return
harder cases after months without resolution.
Citizens Advice Bureau and MPs’ offices have reported stories of harassment and pressure from private bailiff companies in recent years, particularly from vulnerable groups such as older people and people with mental health issues.
While existing public sector staff are, rightly, subject to strict regulation, there are no such rules governing private bailiff companies, and the government’s crime and courts bill currently going through parliament does not propose an effective legal process of accountability.
Also, while MoJ civil servants do not have access to personal data held by other government departments, the bill would give these powers to private bailiffs.
Simon Elliott, northern regional secretary of PCS, which represents the criminal enforcement staff in North Shields, said: “PCS members at North Shields are taking this action alongside colleagues across the UK because they face having their pay and conditions cut while the cost of living continues to soar.
“They are particularly concerned that if these services are privatised, they will be taken over by unaccountable private bailiffs and personal data will be at risk.”