Malawians should expect the country’s justice delivery system to go on a full shutdown as judges too are set to strike if government does not comply with Judiciary demands.
Responding to The Nation questionnaire on the demands by the Judiciary and impending strike by judges, registrar of the High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, Joseph Chigona, said they want government to implement changes to the officers and support staff conditions of service.
On the impending judges’ strike, Chigona said: “There is the real possibility that all members of staff in the Judiciary will within the confines of the law proceed on industrial action if there is a continued non-compliance with their approved terms and conditions of service.”
However, Chigona could not indicate when the strike would start, saying the date would be communicated to all court users.
Judiciary support staff have been on strike for three weeks now, demanding a review of their salaries as government has done with the mainstream civil service in the 2014/15 National Budget. Early this week, the Executive and the Judiciary failed to agree on the rates of increments across the board, creating an impasse that now threatens a shutdown of the justice delivery system.
The Working Committee on the Terms and Conditions of Service of the Judiciary this week rejected a government proposed increase, describing the revision as unacceptable, according to a letter to the Department of Human Resource Management and Development signed by the committee’s chairperson and Supreme Court judge Lovemore Chikopa.
A government circular The Nation saw on Tuesday showed that government had offered 51 percent pay hike to the highest grade (P2) in the Judiciary against a demand of 86 percent while offering 25 percent to the lowest paid grade (R) against a demand of 53 percent.
According to Chigona, the Judiciary had not made any fresh demands for support staff except for one relating to the introduction of housing allowances, which is pending before the Minister of Finance.
He said: “The current dialogue with central government is about the implementation of existing and duly approved terms and conditions of service. Specifically engaged in relation to such terms and conditions is Clause 44 of Terms and Conditions of Service for Judicial Officers.”
The clause states that government should apply any increments in the civil service correspondingly to the Judiciary.
The clause came into effect on March 24 2012 after the longest Judiciary strike, which lasted three months.
Meanwhile, the country’s largest public service trade unions—Civil Service Trade Union (CSTU) and Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM)—have warned government not to review salaries of oversight institutions such as the Judiciary unless they are ready to increase those of mainstream civil servants as well.
CSTU and TUM said in a statement yesterday the unions have been in support of harmonisation of conditions of service in the public sector based on grades regardless of which department, ministry or oversight institution.
“CSTU and TUM urge government to exercise serious caution when increasing the salaries of oversight institutions. Any increase that will be seen to paralyse and defeat the process of harmonisation shall trigger an automatic salary increase to the civil service mainstream through volatile means in order to match with those of oversight institutions,” CSTU general secretary Madalitso Njolomole and TUM general secretary Denis Kalekeni said in a statement.