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Malawi judicial staff gives govt 14 days ultimatum on salary hike: Threatens to shut down courts

The Judiciary support staff has given government a 14 days ultimatum to hike their salaries or face the indefinite strike until their demands are met.

The ultimatum follows government’s, through Ministry of Finance, refusal to effect the judicial workers’ who are pushing  to  have their salaries to be at par with recently hiked civil servants’ salaries.

According to agreement as in accordance to Condition of Service for Members of Staff of the Judiciary, 2006 Part X1-revision (42) part (2), the salaries for judiciary support staff is supposed to correspondingly increase once there is a general increment in salary and allowances for the Civil Service.

However, despite effecting 65 percent salary hike for civil servants in February this year, government did not automatically hike salaries for Judiciary support staffs who have since threatened to go on strike to influence authorities effect the increment.

In a letter the Judiciary Support Staff Union has written Department of Human Resource and Management copied to Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Labour, Accountant General and Public Service Management, the disgruntled workers have demanded a salary increment by 26th of April or will go on strike that will paralyse about 200 courts incuding the high courts and  magistrate courts.

“Reference is made to the recent general salary revision that has been effected on 25th of March 2013 to our friends in the Civil Service main stream. If we recall when our last revision was made, it was agreed that whenever there is general increase in salary and allowances in the Civil Service, the salary and allowances of a member of staff of the Judiciary shall correspondingly be increased,” the letter dated April 8, 2013  seen by Nyasa Times reads in part.

The workers said were surprised and dismayed to note that their general salary revision has not been implemented.

“The attitude by government has continued to wear its ugly head when it comes to issues pertaining revision of conditions of service and general salary revision of the Judiciary.

“Given the circumstances, we as members of staff of the Judiciary are left with no option but giving an ultimatum to government that failure to implement what was agreed, we will embark on a sit-in starting from 26th April, 2013. This letter therefore serves as a notice of the impending sit-in,” reads the letter.

On Monday, the support staff had a meeting with acting Chief Human Resource Officer, a Mr. Lora who assured them that government was looking into their concerns and that its final position on the matter will be communicated soon.

However, through their chairman, Charles Lizigeni, they have vowed to never put off their plans of holding a sit-in if their salaries are not increased as demanded.

“Nothing will deter us from pushing for this increment. It’s not illegal, it’s something that was agreed between us the workers and our employers. Therefore the agreement has to be upheld, otherwise we will go on with our strike,” said Lizigeni.

Earlier this month, Ministry of Finance spokesperson, Nations Msowoya was quoted in the press saying the Judiciary support staff should not expect a pay rise in this financial year as there is currently no money for such increments.

“We have indeed received their submission but as you would appreciate, the main challenge is money and we are studying whether this is feasible. But looking at the economic situation, it would be difficult to effect such increments within this financial year (ending June),” Msowoya was quoted saying.

He said the Ministry expects that the Judiciary support staff would understand the government’s position and never resort to strike as they have been threatening.

Last year, a two-month strike by judiciary support staff paralysed the country’s justice delivery system.

On average, high court judges are paid about $6,000 (4,700 euros) while junior judicial workers go home with $100.

But the judges have drawn up a list of new demands, including entitlements to at least two vehicles, one of which should be a Mercedes Benz.

The judges also want their fuel perks hiked by an average of 120 percent, settlement allowance to increase by 1 500 percent and furniture allowances to swell by 60 percent.

The Judiciary also wants the Chief Justice to have a retirement package that is almost similar to that of State Vice-President, among other demands.

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