Members of the trade union for Magistrates’ Courts Staff took part in a rally in Birmingham today protesting against plans to transfer their jobs to the private sector.
The Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for running the courts system in England and Wales wishes to privatise the collection and enforcement of court fines. This is despite the enforcement division of the courts service improving collection rates of fines, compensation and court costs year on year. The plans could mean up to 120 staff working across the West Midlands being transferred to a private company or losing their jobs.
The development comes on top of the privatisation of HMP Birmingham and plans for West Midlands Police to outsource some of its functions to private companies.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is backing the enforcement staff and are calling on the Government to reverse the plans, pointing to the failure of other private sector contractors to deliver the goods – notably the failure of G4S to ensure enough trained staff were available to manage the security arrangements for the Olympics. The union is balloting the staff on industrial action.
PCS have also pointed to the improved collection performance, which is contributing to the Governments financial targets.
President of the PCS MoJ Group Kevin Greenaway said: “PCS members have worked extremely hard to increase collection of fines. Last year collection rates increased by 14.5%. MoJ will not listen to arguments of the failure of the private sector or the success of their staff the privatisation is driven by the desire to cut the civil service and put more profit in the hands of private companies.
“The Courts should be the arbiters of just and reasonable fines enforcement supported by a well resourced, experienced and trained staff.
“Just as in the NHS failing PFIs bankrupt NHS trusts – threatening jobs, pay and service and as with G4S, this privatisation is filled with risk. It will have a detrimental effect upon the integrity of fine collection. It puts the public at risk of being subjected to poorer service merely to ensure greater profits for big business. When it fails we pick up the bill.”
Union members are planning further campaigning and a lobby next month to stop the process of “Justice for Sale”.