CRIMINAL barristers are set to vote on plans to intensify their ongoing strikes by running uninterrupted strikes indefinitely.
The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) will ballot its members over plans to call off its current bi-weekly strike actions and run a continuous strike from 5 September onwards.
“It has become clear that a significant proportion of barristers wish to be given an option to escalate our current action towards an uninterrupted strike in order to exert maximum leverage upon the Government,” the CBA said in a letter to its members.
Criminal barristers are now in their seventh week of strike action, after voting to walk out in June.
So far the government has refused to cave into barristers’ demands, who are calling for a 25 per cent increase in legal aid fees.
In a comment to City A.M., Kirsty Brimelow, vice chair of the CBA, said the government’s “refusal to enter negotiations on fee increases” had led to a situation in which the barristers’ association felt “forced” to ballot its members on plans for a continuous strike
“The CBA continues to urge Dominic Raab to negotiate with the leaders of the CBA to resolve this crisis,” Brimelow said, as she claimed the CBA’s actions have come as a “last resort”.
Criminal barrister Sean Summerfield told City A.M. that “there is no appetite for rowing back on the strike action” as he claimed it is “likely” barristers will vote to escalate the strike.
“Certainly, the junior end of the Bar has been very clear in national meetings,” he said. “We’re committed to seeing this through for as long as it takes.”
Summerfield said that some barristers’ have been forced to use their savings and take on debts to support themselves while striking.
He also claimed that an increasing number of criminal barristers are now diversifying their practices by “moving away from crime entirely.”
In its letter to barristers, the CBA also announced the launch of a “hardship fund” to provide strikers.
Responding to the latest ballot, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “This is a disappointing decision by the Criminal Bar Association, considering criminal barristers will receive a 15 percent fee increase, equating to an average pay rise of £7,000 per year.”