Legal Sector Workers United is part of UVW. We exist to unify and organise our sector, securing justice for all.
We aren’t just barristers and solicitors, but cleaners, paralegals, secretaries, caseworkers, clerks, legal advisors and security staff.
Our aims are simple:
That every one of us be properly compensated, fairly treated, and secure in their job
That universal access to justice be restored
Like workers in all sectors, we witness unfair firing practices. We live with gender pay gaps. We see that BAME staff fill up the lowest-paid positions. We aren’t asked for our views on changes that significantly affect our working lives, and we observe bullying being ignored by those with the power to address it. Some of us aren’t paid enough, or are expected to work too many hours, without enough days off to recharge.
Trade union membership is not a weapon of last resort. It doesn’t mean that we hate our bosses, or that we dread Monday morning. First, it provides a structure (members’ meetings) to voice issues, hear how peers are affected, and decide on action. Second, it encourages communication with management.
With the appointment of union reps, concerns can be put to decision makers, and changes negotiated (through collective bargaining) without any single individual having to put their job, reputation or working relationships at risk. Trade union recognition also guarantees our right to be consulted on major workplace developments. Formal processes like these help to ease tensions more often than they aggravate them.
However, when things do go wrong, support is on hand. LSWU offers legal advice, employment law training, and representation at disciplinary proceedings from day one. Meanwhile, our power in numbers can — and, if necessary, will — be realised via democratically-mandated industrial action.
Beyond these universal benefits to trade union membership, there are specific reasons why workers in this sector, at this moment, must organise. We have seen the effects of government cuts to legal aid, court closures and outsourcing. Many of us earn below Living Wage, with no job security, doing work which was once reserved for the legally qualified. Squeezed on all sides, we can no longer guarantee access to justice for those who depend on us. But when we are attached to firms, chambers or organisations barely managing to stay afloat, putting pressure on individual employers is not enough.
In fact, in these instances our interests with management are often aligned. Our formation will strengthen the hand of owners, partners and representational bodies in disputes with the MoJ by demonstrating that workforces are behind them. Still more importantly, it will also mean that we have our own seat at the negotiating table, to ensure that future settlements prioritise all workers in our sector, and particularly the most vulnerable.
Membership of UVW will include affiliation to LSWU if any connection to the legal industry is indicated during sign-up, or communicated to UVW thereafter. This is the only way to join LSWU. Standard UVW membership fees apply.
“This initiative is long overdue. I was involved in an earlier effort in the 1970s which was far less ambitious and did not survive. This has the advantage of a far wider constituency of workers who are constantly at risk of exploitation and marginalisation despite their critical role. As Shelley put it, strength in numbers!”
“I support the unionisation of all workers in all sectors. The inequalities in income and in terms and conditions in the legal world are notorious and I therefore support the initiative to form Legal Sector Workers United under the banner of United Voices of the World. I wish them luck.”