The Athens Union of Employees Lawyers expresses its solidarity with our colleagues, barristers in England and Wales, who are on strike action protesting against low wages and inhumane working conditions.
In particular, the colleagues of the criminal hearings, who represent defendants for criminal offenses in court, are on strike. Our colleagues are demanding an increase in the compensation they receive from the state for providing legal aid.
Under the UK legal aid system, the government pays lawyers for defendants who cannot afford it to ensure they are properly represented, based on the principles of a fair trial.
Remuneration rates for lawyers providing legal aid work are set by the government. In this context, Downing Street proposed a salary increase of 15%. However, barristers, especially young people and practitioners, reject the government’s proposal as a joke, saying it is an increase – crumbs. According to them, a new or practicing lawyer earns an average of just 9,000 a year (750 per month), and if they take into account the time they spend preparing cases, then their hourly earnings are below the minimum wage.
Colleagues note that the 15% increase proposed by the government will “disappear from inflation” before it takes effect.
We welcome the massive participation and determination of colleagues in England and Wales to continue their strikes until they are vindicated.
Our colleagues have already announced that the strikes will last for four weeks. This week there were strikes on Monday and Tuesday, while the strike days will increase by one each week until a five-day strike from Monday 18 July to Friday 22 July. If their demands are not met, they warn that they will continue in August!
This development proves that the exploitation of salaried and trainee lawyers is not only a “Greek phenomenon” nor only a feature of the Greek economy. It confirms that both in Greece and in the United Kingdom, salaried and trainee lawyers are employees and not “partners”. We experience exploitation because we are forced to give our scientific knowledge to employers (large law firms and offices, banks and other companies) to make a living. Regardless of the legal characterization attached to our employment relationship, we are subject to the employer’s orders regarding the place, manner and time of employment, we are constantly subject to evaluation procedures to become more efficient.
It turns out that hired law has nothing to do with what our professors “taught” us at the university, with what our employers tell us, nor is it an “episode” in the well-known TV series “Suits”.
It is worth noting that in countries such as England and Wales, the liberalization of the legal profession, the separation of lawyers into 2-speed lawyers and the expansion of the so-called “paralegal” professions have been promoted for many years. Respectively, in our country, the implementation of EU guidelines is a constant pursuit, in order to tighten the exams for the license to practice, to form a new army of graduates with reduced professional qualifications and rights, as a new cheap and “flexible” scientific potential that will work for large law firms and other companies, even in the form of so-called “paralegal” professions.
It turns out that these aspirations contribute to the intensification of the attack on our rights, for wages according to our modern needs, working hours, insurance etc
We actively support the struggles of our colleagues in England and Wales.
Their struggle highlights the immediate and urgent need to fight now also in Greece for the signing of a Collective Bargaining Agreement that will be mandatory for all lawyers-employees, for stable and permanent work, against flexible working conditions.
Solidarity With the Strike Action of Our Colleagues Barristers in England and Wales!