After more than two months of industrial action, court sittings across New Zealand returned to normal this afternoon – at least for now.
A day of mediation on Thursday produced a breakthrough in the dispute that has seen Public Service Association members taking intermittent strike action and working to rule every day.
The PSA said in an announcement on its website that the talks had led to a “break-through” in the negotiations, and an offer will now to put to members.
“The progress made by getting back to the table with Ministry officials has been sufficient for the PSA to agree to suspend industrial action from 1.30pm today that had previously been in place to continue until 7 December,” said Glenn Barclay, the PSA national secretary.
“Furthermore significant progress was made towards bargaining on a revised offer, with a high expected likelihood that negotiations will proceed to a settlement that PSA’s 2000 plus members at the Ministry will then vote on whether to ratify or not.
“The next step is for an agreed document to be finalised between both parties by the end of next week.”
Apart from several strikes that have closed courts around the country for up to half a day, PSA members including Court Safety Officers have been working to rule every day. By all taking their breaks at the same time, sittings have had to stop early for lunch adjournments and at the end of the day.
Also, members have refused to handle appearances by video-link from prisons, police stations, or other courts, so the Ministry of Justice has had the expense of transporting people to courts to make appearances.
The staff have not allowed pre-arranged sentencings unless there is a vulnerable victim, and since mid-November they have been refusing to sign documents.
The rolling stoppages and work-to-rule has meant a growing backlog of work for the courts.