STRIKING barristers were supported by the RMT at their rally outside the Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey in central London yesterday, while rallies were also held in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Cardiff.
Barristers are striking against the imposition of a 15% increase in the legal aid budget, which they will not receive until next year and are demanding a 25% increase.
They voted by 81.5% for strike action which begins this week with a two-day strike – yesterday and today – followed by three days next week, culminating in a week-long strike from 18-25th July, with action resuming again on 1st August.
Jo Sidhu QC, Chair of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), said yesterday: ‘Last year, we lost 300 criminal barristers. Why? Because they could not do the job anymore on what they were being paid.’
Barrister and author Chris Daw said: ‘Junior barristers are working for a pittance – and sometimes for nothing at all – if cases are adjourned.
‘The 15% pay rise proposed by the government will not touch the sides and will be wiped out by inflation by the time it comes into effect.’
Speaking to News Line at the rally outside the Old Bailey, Rhiannon Crimmins QC, said: ‘The CBA has been warning successive governments for years that we are haemorrhaging junior criminal barristers.
‘Some people are earning as little as £12,200 per annum. We are publicly funded and earn considerably less than colleagues that are privately funded.
‘It’s a highly specialist job, for which people spend thousands of pounds on degrees, and then a bar course that costs about £20,000, and years of training on the job.
‘People are routinely working for less than the minimum wage. They are vocationally driven. We have lost a quarter of our workforce, that’s 300 criminal barristers, and 567 criminal trials had to be abandoned for lack of legal representation.
‘My family is in the NHS, and workers there are treated in the same way.’