We have this afternoon sent the following message to members.
Since the Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, announced his intention to press ahead with dual contracts and a further cut to fees of 8.75% (totalling 17.5% cuts in a year) meetings have been convened around England and Wales calling for a boycott of work at the new rates and a return to "no returns".
Following a meeting of lawyers in Liverpool on 25 June 2015 at which it was resolved to continue to fight the cuts, a wave of further meetings in cities including Birmingham, Bristol, Leicester, and Manchester has seen overwhelming support for refusing work at reduced rates until Gove reverses the cut. Members of the executive committee were present at one meeting in London packed with over 150 practitioners - where around 28 sets of chambers were represented - who overwhelmingly supported motions for direct action.
We believe that this momentum must be seized and that direct action should resume as soon as practicable. Unfortunately, the Criminal Bar Association refuses to heed its members. In May 96% of those who voted in a CBA ballot backed direct action. The CBA now wants to ballot its members again, with a question which presents the action already underway as only involving solicitors.
We urge you to vote "yes" in the CBA's ballot on industrial action. It is not the question we would have posed. It does not seek to oppose dual contracts. From criticising solicitors only a week ago for not acting, the CBA now seeks to frame the action as only the concern of solicitors. The CBA again is falling prey to the Ministry of Justice tactics of divide and rule. We believe in unity of purpose and unity of action. This is not solely the Bar's fight or solely the solicitors' fight; it is a fight against the Government and most importantly to protect legal aid. We must remember that above all.
We have supported direct action since these plans were announced in 2013. We support it now. No returns was devastatingly effective when initiated last year. It brought the professions together and instilled confidence that we had something in our hands which meant we could negotiate seriously with Government.
You can vote in the CBA ballot HERE
If you are a criminal barrister who is not yet a member of the CBA you can join here.
The ballot closes on 14 July. The next day, 15 July, is the CBA AGM. All CBA members can attend and we also invite you to go along in numbers for what may be our most crucial meeting yet.
Outside of the CBA, we must continue to organise together throughout the country. Only with local action and national co-ordination can we be properly prepared to win this struggle.