Striking judiciary workers who have defied calls by government to go back to work demanding a 45 percent pay raise – similar to that given to other civil servants- have rubbished calls by chiefs that President Peter Mutharika should sack them without compensation.
Court employees have been striking since November 11, 2014 and has the strike has shut down court causing jails to overflow.
Traditional leaders from across the country mobilised and funded by the state machinery, led by paramount chiefs, petitioned President Mutharika to fire striking public service employees.
Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula said the traditional leaders including Paramount Chief Kyungu of Karonga, Paramount Chief Lundu of Chikwawa, Inkosi ya Makosi M’Mbelwa V of the Jere Ngoni in Mzimba and representatives of Inkosi ya Makosi Gomani V of the Maseko Ngoni in Ntcheu, have no legal mandate to call on government to fire them.
Said Mvula: “They [chiefs] have no legal mandate to call for our dismissal. I am sure they made that call out of ignorance because they do not know why we are on strike. We are calling upon government to tell the chiefs why we are on strike.”
A spokesperson for the judiciary workers, Linley Herbert, said they have put their foot down on their demand for improved pay package and that they will not be intimidated by the state, saying “if the government wrote us officially about something tangible, maybe as of now we couldn’t have been outside just sitting like this.”
The executive director for the Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Timothy Mtambo, told a news conference that by failing to resolve the judicial strike, the government is compromising democracy.
“If the judiciary is paralyzed, which means an arm of government is paralyzed, and if an arm of government is paralyzed, we cannot talk of democracy because the primary responsibility [of the judiciary] is to make sure that there is access to justice and legal remedies. And that is totally shut down. So we are challenging the government that it’s only [a] dictatorship type of government that allows such things to happen,” said Mtambo.
In recent months, there have been strikes by Judiciary support staff, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) employees and University of Malawi (Unima) support staff demanding improved packages.
President Mutharika said in his recent state of the nation address that his government will not meet the strikers’ demands because of financial constraints..
“There is just no money to increase their salary scales,” he said.
Mutharika said his administration is implementing a salary harmonization policy, which seeks to ensure that all government workers of equal grades receive equal salary, regardless of their departments.
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