Judiciary workers in Malawi have defied government calls to resume work despite the recent government threat to seal off the courts and withhold salaries for striking staff members if they refuse to end the strike.
Government chief secretary George Mkondiwa directed that the striking workers should resume work on January 5 or else the government would seal off their premises and withhold their January salaries.
But the judiciary staff converged at their place of work on Tuesday to resume their strike, which has now entered its seventh week.
Spokesperson for the Judiciary, Mlenga Mvula says the workers will not resume work until government meets their demands in full.
Malawi President Peter Mutharika said in his recent state of the nation address that his government will not meet the strikers’ demands because of financial constraints.
He said judiciary workers already receive higher salaries than colleagues elsewhere in the government.
“The gist of the strike is that those who have privileged salary scales want to continue to earn more than their mainstream civil servant colleagues. In short, they demand equal salary increments that will maintain their superiority over their mainstream civil servants. To do this means that we will have to have extra money from somewhere. There is just no money to increase their salary scales,” said Mutharika.
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.
Mlenga says the issue of salary harmonization is out of context.
“The issue of salary harmonization has no legal basis because what we are talking about here is about the agreement made in 2012 that each time government is revising the salaries of the civil servants, we will be increasing our salaries as well,” said Mvula.
However, Malawi’s Human Rights Commission says the strike is violating people’s rights to justice. It has asked the workers to end their nearly two month-long stalemate.
Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale echoed similar view saying the strike has no legal basis because it began before all channels of negotiations were exhausted.
He also said the 2012 agreement between the government and judiciary workers on salary increments has no legal binding.
“The conditions of service that the Judiciary are basing their demands on were made in 2012 and were approved by the Public Appointments Committee that year. There is no record that they were approved by the National Assembly itself,” stated Kaphale in his legal opinion.
Meanwhile, prison and police officials are complaining of overcrowded cells.
The ongoing strike is hampering progress of trials, as court operations remain suspended.
Several trials, including those in connection with the financial scandal have been indefinitely suspended.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :