Industrial impasse at Ministry of Justice enters seventh week

PSA union solidarity at the Ministry of Justice continues to grow as an unresolved dispute over fair pay and a fair across-the-board pay system enters its seventh week.

In addition to ongoing work-to-rule actions, such as taking common breaks, the pace and variety of site-specific and occupational group strikes picked up again this week after a  full day of mediation held earlier this week (Monday 29 October) was unsuccessful.

This week alone Courts have been disrupted by one to two hour long strikes in Auckland, central North Island, the Hawkes Bay and Wellington – with a second nationwide strike in prospect before Friday 9 November.

A key sticking point remains the Ministry’s resistance to the PSA position that the increase in base salary needs to start at no lower than 2%. 

PSA assistant secretary Basil Prestidge: “The length of dispute that the Ministry brings upon itself is again showing a regrettable pattern. Under the National Government a similar dispute with the Ministry dragged on for months in 2010.

“The cost and other impacts to the justice system aren’t being taken into account but by our estimates it soon runs up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“This also sends a disappointing signal that the importance of Ministry staff to the future success of the justice system isn’t being valued - be they Court Security Officers, Court Registry Officers, Victim Advisors, Court Reporters, Family Court Coordinators or workers from the Ministry’s head office and specific courts such as the Māori Land Court.

In an article published in the latest weekly NZ Law Society newsletter Prestidge made the point that “the Ministry needs to get the message that it is in everyone’s interests to sort this, rather than just ignore it”.

The same newsletter carried this comment from Criminal Bar Association president Len Andersen: “Lawyers are quite conflicted because they understand that the court staff appear to be very poorly paid for the responsibility they have and there’s a lot of sympathy for their claim for increased pay”.

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