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LEADING barrister Michael Mansfield QC has welcomed a fresh initiative by legal sector workers to unionise, saying the move was “long overdue.”
He has endorsed the new Legal Sector Workers United (LSWU), which was launched today.
It will be part of United Voices of the World (UVW) and “aims to tackle the sector’s poverty pay, inequality and fight to bring back legal aid.”
The union will include a wide range of workers in the legal industry from law firm cleaners and security guards to trainee solicitors and pupil barristers as well as practising lawyers.
Mr Mansfield said: “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.”
The industry, with its elaborate hierarchy, has a reputation for exploiting junior workers. Paralegals are particularly vulnerable and typically endure long hours in the hope of one day winning a training contract to become a solicitor.
The LSWU said that paralegals “often do not even earn the real London living wage of £10.55 per hour, yet equity partners in the same firms can take home over £2 million per year.”
It added: “Likewise, some junior barristers earn as little as £12,000 per year and can often earn under even the minimum wage after costs are deducted for a day’s prosecution, which is sometimes paid at a flat fee of £46.50.”
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