A union representing prosecutors in Scotland has said its members could take industrial action in a dispute over pay.
The FDA union, which represents lawyers at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), launched an indicative ballot on industrial action, including a strike, on Tuesday.
Union officials said COPFS lawyers are paid significantly less than their counterparts in the Scottish Government and have accused ministers of failing to meaningfully engage in discussions.
In 2018, the FDA said some staff earned more than £10,000 over their procurator fiscal salary when they moved from COPFS to the Scottish Government.
The pandemic has caused a backlog of court cases, which a committee of MSPs has warned could last a decade if nothing is done to address delays in the justice system.
The FDA’s Scottish officer Allan Sampson said: “Our members are being paid considerably less than their Scottish Government counterparts and that is not something we are prepared to ignore.
“Sadly, to date, the necessary additional budget has not been forthcoming and ministers have failed to engage on this issue in any meaningful or productive way.
“It is for that reason that the FDA has taken the very difficult decision to consult with our members on potential industrial action.”
He added: “COPFS staff have played a pivotal role in keeping our justice system moving throughout the pandemic, and they will be essential in dealing with the backlog of cases in the period ahead.
“All they ask is to be paid the same as colleagues doing comparative jobs in the Scottish Government and for their pay to reflect the value of the work they do.”
The indicative ballot will ask FDA members if they are willing to take strike action.
A further ballot would be required to take place before any strike.
A spokesman for the Crown Office said: “COPFS has an ongoing and constructive dialogue with unions and staff over pay and benefits, informed by the available budget.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We greatly value the role the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service plays in Scotland’s criminal justice system.
“Staff salaries are a matter for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
“The Scottish Government is in ongoing dialogue with COPFS and trade unions regarding the pay matters in question, as we develop the 2021-22 public-sector pay policy to be finalised alongside the Scottish budget on January 28.”