The New Zealand Law Society has written to the presidents of its 13 branches, asking lawyers to stay patient during the ongoing industrial action by court staff.
Members of the Public Service Association that work in the Ministry of Justice initiated the action last month as they called on the government to provide fair pay, pay increases, and progression. A work-to-rule policy has been implemented while negotiations take place.
The Law Society said that the action, which it said has hit some areas harder than others, has extended on three occasions to “lightning strikes” that occur after only 30 minutes notice.
"The Ministry of Justice is acutely aware of the impact the 'lightning strikes' are having on court users and have asked us to pass on that they have raised very strong with the PSA that 30 minutes' notice is not sufficient,” the Law Society said.
It said that the “lightning strikes” have so far been role-specific and location specific.
“What this may mean is that matters are adjourned and courts closed on 30 minutes notice. In some areas alternative courses of action, such as coverage by staff who are not engaged in industrial action or outside resources are able to be utilised and courts are able to remain open, but that is not always possible,” it said. "We know this is incredibly difficult and frustrating for some practitioners and very upsetting for their clients, victims and other court users.”
The Law Society warned that even though the organisation hopes for a mutually satisfactory resolution, it may be difficult for a while and the courts are likely to experience disruptions while negotiations are ongoing.
“Unfortunately, there is little we can do but try to be patient while this is worked out,” the Law Society said.