PSA disappointed Weekend Bail Court AVL trial terminated

The Weekend Bail Court Trial has been terminated by Legal Aid after only one weekend. The trial, which was intended to run for six weeks, was pulled by Legal Aid management following reported concerns about social distancing, service delivery and cost. The PSA was not properly consulted about this decision.

Preliminary indications are that the decision to terminate the trial was unnecessary. Participants in the trial have advised the PSA as follows:

  • There were no objections from Judicial Officers, Courts or other agencies.
  • All bail appearances were successfully conducted via AVL.
  • The problems with congregation around the AVL facilities could largely have been avoided had more security passes been available.
  • Difficulties with receiving and service of documents which necessitated staff going to the courthouse require further investigation to ascertain whether they could be avoided in future.

The PSA is conducting a further review of the available information with a view to providing a submission to management. Any members who participated in the trial are encouraged to provide information to the PSA on a confidential basis.

PSA Delegates and Senior Management have been meeting twice weekly throughout the CV19 crisis.

At these meetings, the PSA has been able to raise issues in confidence on behalf of staff from across NSW. The principal concerns have been the health, safety, working conditions and continuity of employment of staff and families.

Mr Brendan Thomas, CEO of Legal Aid, has been at the forefront of discussions to see that all Courts as far as possible can be serviced remotely minimising risk to our staff. The PSA is most appreciative of his efforts. In co-operation with the PSA, major preventive health and safety measures have been put in place at LAC. More than 80 per cent of Legal Aid’s 1365 staff are now regularly working from home with the support of management. This is a fine record of collaborative achievement.

Sadly, in relation to Weekend Bail Courts, this record of consultation and policy boldness has been lacking. Commitments to trial Week End Bail Courts Option 2 for six weeks were reversed without the opportunity for the PSA to consult with our membership or meet prior to the decision to cancel the trial. The lack of consultation and vision in this case is lamentable.

At yesterday’s CV19 Meeting the PSA protested at the lack of consultation and argued that the safety and service concerns raised to management could be assuaged. We argued that the trial should not have been terminated. The PSA’s principal concern remains maximising the health and safety of LAC Staff across the Commission.

The PSA’s position is as follows:

  • Bail Courts are a whole of Commission health issue, not least because staff are drawn from offices and homes across the metropolitan area.
  • The advice provided to Management is not consistent with the advice the PSA has received from members. The trial shows that OPTION 2 did work albeit requiring fine tuning.
  • Staff and their family’s health take priority over service delivery.
  • A one weekend trial is inadequate – there were failings relating to technology, training, social distancing and delivery of materials but Option 2 can work.
  • The trial should be continued as agreed for six weeks.
  • The PSA will put this position in a submission to management.

The PSA is heartened by the assurance yesterday from the Deputy CEO that she understands the PSA’s legitimate health concerns and the argument that better processes training could be put in place to trial Option 2.

Contacts

Justin Hutchinson justin.hutchinson@legalaid.nsw.gov.au or 0419 287 985

PSA staff

Andrew Wright Industrial Officer andrew.wright@psa.asn.au or 0408 400146

Glenn Duncan Organiser gduncan@psa.asn.au or 0409455682

What can you do?

  • Encourage your colleagues to JOIN the PSA online
  • Give a copy of this bulletin to your colleagues
  • Print this bulletin and put it up on your notice board
  • Get involved as a PSA Delegate/Contact – get in touch with your Organiser

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