English lawyers’ strike for increased legal aid continues

On 5 September last, the Association of Criminal Lawyers of England and Wales announced an indefinite strike for the increase in legal aid intended to help the most deprived people to pay their lawyer, and allowing those who forbid to get paid. Indeed, across the Channel, young criminal lawyers are exhausted and receive an income below the minimum wage for the first two years of their practice.

While according to the Bank of England, inflation in the United Kingdom should stand at 13% over the year, the British government is only planning an increase in legal aid of 15%. A very insufficient response to the gravity of the situation.

However, legal aid is already more than insufficient and delivered under very restrictive conditions. This is why the association of criminal lawyers demands a 25% increase in its amount in order to ensure, despite inflation, an increase in its real value. Added to this, as in France, are the delays faced by the working classes when they go to court, generally several years. Yet we know in France that justice knows how to be quick when it comes to repressing demonstrators, deciding whether to keep undocumented people in administrative detention centers or dislodging strikers. In addition, the costs and delays that prevent the poorest from being able to go to court.

The call for a strike on September 5, which gave rise to several days of action during which lawyers refused to go to court and demonstrated in front of courthouses, is a continuation of the first actions carried out in April and then a series of walkouts organized over four weeks from June 27. According to the Law Gazette, Dominic Raab, the Minister of Justice, would have asked the clerks to transmit the names of the striking lawyers to the Ministry.

But above all, this mobilization of English and Welsh criminal lawyers resonates with the context of the class struggle exacerbated in recent weeks in the United Kingdom marked by the unprecedented strike of railway workers for 30 years, but also dockers and even postal workers. Other sectors were planning actions, such as journalists starting on September 14.

However, contrary to the need to discuss the extension of the strike, the main trade union leaderships canceled the actions to come after the announcement of the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

So, in the name of the supposed national unity around royal mourning, the need for a battle plan that discusses the prospect of the general strike is swept under the rug. British workers are being told to tone down their demands, turn a blind eye to the huge drop in their purchasing power caused by inflation, especially in energy, and give Liz Truss a head start, the new conservative Prime Minister, claimed admirer of the iron lady Margaret Thatcher.

The association of criminal lawyers accompanied the movement in a press release on September 9, by canceling the scheduled demonstrations. However, the strike is maintained and the lawyers participating in the movement still refuse to go to a hearing.

To obtain progress in the context of galloping inflation, the British workers must reject national unity and return to the path of struggle with a battle plan commensurate with the combativeness that has recently manifested itself.

In France too, lawyers have to choose sides. Lawyers for workers, foreigners, detainees and all working classes should follow the example of their colleagues across the Channel who have taken to the streets. But the demands of the lawyers must extend, as they must join the struggles of the workers. In England, their place is alongside railway workers, postal workers and nurses, to demand an extension and increase in legal aid, but also and above all to demand general wage increases. Their movement is an example of how lawyers can stand on the right side of the barricade and choose their allies.

Leave a Comment