Judges and prosecutors are threatening to go on strike for the first time in history unless the government urgently tackles issues with staff shortages and working conditions.
The NVvR, the union for the judiciary and prosecution service, has given minister for legal protection Franc Weerwind two weeks to address their concerns or face a walkout.
Negotiations for a new collective agreement for judiciary staff broke up in December without agreement after seven rounds of talks. The NVvR said it had ‘little hope of improvement’.
Judges face working weeks of up to 80 hours and a growing backlog of cases, with complicated cases being pushed down the pile because there are not enough specialist prosecutors.
The union also wants pay for trainee judges to be increased and measures taken to improve security in a sector where staff face growing levels of threats and intimidation in the polarised political climate.
‘Being a judge is a job for life, but for the first time we are seeing fantastic people leaving the sector, either because they’re sick of the work or they’re being snapped up by the government,’ said Marc Fierstra, chair of the NVvR and a supreme court judge.
‘As well as being concerning, that’s revealing. We are in a very bad state.
‘The minister’s pay bargaining offer shows no ambition to do something about it. To the NVvR this is non-negotiable and incomprehensible. That was the reason for suspending the talks until the minister comes back with a concrete and better proposal.’
Weerwind said in a response that he ‘understood the concerns’ of the judicial sector. ‘The ministry has received a letter from the NVvR that I will study carefully. My response will go to the NVvR first,’ he said.
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