Lawyers across the UK on Monday voted in favor of striking over pay raises and employment disputes with the government-Zamkuwire - Zamkuwire.com

Lawyers across the UK on Monday voted in favor of striking over pay raises and employment disputes with the government-Zamkuwire

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UK lawyers vote to strike over pay disputes

Lawyers across the UK on Monday voted in favor of striking over pay raises and employment disputes with the government.

The Criminal Bar Association made the announcement after its members voted overwhelmingly in favor of industrial action. Nearly 80% of barristers within the group supported the motion to launch an all-out strike next month after their demand for a 25% pay raise was not met by the government.

“The effect of the strike will be that the courts continue to sit empty with trials and cases not being heard. It is a last-resort action. Barristers have had to endure collapses in their income and cuts and underfunding so that their income has decreased over 28% since around 2006.” Kirsty Brimelow, the group’s vice chair, told the BBC Breakfast show.

“The remedy is for an injection of money into the backlog of cases, which currently stands at 60,000 cases, that barristers are working on that will cost the government only £1.1 million ($1.09 million) per month. Currently, it’s costing much more for the courts to sit empty,” Brimelow added.

The barrister strike is set to begin on Sept. 5 and will result in a majority of trials in more than 70 crown courts across England and Wales being delayed, with others expected to close altogether.

The bar group is demanding a 25% pay raise for those barristers involved in legal aid work – representing those individuals who cannot afford lawyers – but have criticized the Ministry of Justice’s proposed 15% increase in fees, arguing that it is insufficient when looking at the cost of living crisis and the decline in real wage growth.

The government, however, has defended the proposed pay rise and condemned the group’s decision to launch industrial action.

“The escalation of strike action is wholly unjustified considering we are increasing criminal barristers’ fees by 15%, which will see the typical barrister earn around £7,000 more a year,” Justice Minister Sarah Dines said in a statement quoted by the BBC News.

According to the Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid, the median salary for a criminal lawyer in 2019-20 was £79,800. However, this figure falls to a range of £55,000-£62,900 after expenses, with new criminal barristers earning as little as £9,000.

Barristers are self-employed and, unlike corporate lawyers who earn up to £100,000 a year at the start of their careers, struggle to make an affordable income in the beginning of their careers. Barristers employed in legal aid work earn on average up to £60,000 after expenses.

The cost of living crisis is threatening to squeeze the incomes and livelihoods of many across the UK. With utility bills expected to rise above £6,000 in April 2021, many fear they will be unable to meet such demands. At the same time, inflation has risen to an unprecedented 9.4% which has hurt the value of the pound and driven up prices for the average household.

The launch of the legal industrial action is the latest following a spate of strikes across the country over the last two months. On Sunday, workers at the UK’s largest port voted to strike for eight days while workers in the transport sector staged a mass walkout last week.

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