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Trade union branch for judges has been set up in Britain

07 Feb 2023 / employment Print

Trade union branch for judges set up in Britain

A trade-union branch for judges has been set up by GMB, one of Britain’s biggest trade unions.

Formerly the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trade Union, the union is “demanding answers from the Lord Chief Justice over a ‘toxic work environment’ reportedly leaving some members feeling suicidal”, the Law Society Gazette of England and Wales reports.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Steve Reed MP attended a meeting this week when the GMB Judges’ Branch was formally constituted.

‘Secret soundings’

A motion concerning the treatment of judges, discrimination and so-called ‘secret soundings’ was passed. If passed at GMB Congress in June, the motion will be adopted as national policy.

GMB senior organiser Stuart Fegan described the official establishment of the branch as a historic moment.

Tokenistic initiatives

A GMB letter to the Lord Chief Justice says: “Our members have informed me that initiatives advertised internally, purporting to address wellbeing, are at best tokenistic with recent published diversity policies not containing any plan to improve workplace experience or culture.

“The judicial leadership have attempted to introduce an ill-health policy that would, in the view of our members, operate unlawfully to diminish their rights in the workplace, which is encouraging low confidence in the ability or willingness of the judicial leadership to address the welfare of judges.”

‘Absent management’

The union has stated that it is particularly concerned about the ‘significant’ number of judges who have reported bullying and harassment in their courts.

“A significant number of judges have reported feeling suicidal because of treatment at work. I understand this is particularly prevalent on the Midland Circuit, where we have many GMB judges seeking advice.

“A significant factor appears to be largely absent management [operating] outside of required standards with the perception of impunity,” the letter says.

The letter also asks what action has been taken to ensure judges’ physical and mental wellbeing.

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Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland