Malawi government has sent a passionate appeal to the Judiciary to end a strike by junior judicial workers which has paralysed the court system in the country and affected the delivery of justice.
Minister of Justice and constitutional affairs Samuel Tembenu told a news conference in Lilongwe that government is committed to resolve the impasse as soon as possible.
“We are therefore appealing to the judiciary to live up to their constitutional mandate and and responsibilities in the interest of the people of Malawi. It is the expectation of Government that reason will prevail in resolving this impasse,” said Tembenu.
Tembenu said Judicial staff and support staff have always enjoyed high salaries than other civil servants within the comparable grades.
But the support staff have vowed to continue the strike as Judges and Magistrate are set to join after Judiciaryrejected a proposed salary increment from government and has since demanded between 17 and 35 percent age points more over and above the Capital Hill offer.
The Justice Minister said meeting the demand will defeat the purpose of salary harmonisation.
Court clerks, who began an indefinite strike at the beginning of November, are demanding pay rise and have vowed to keep striking until their demands are met.
The support staff includes court reporters that record all court proceedings, stenographers who transcribe them, court clerks, secretaries and guards.
Justice Lovemore Chikopa, Chairperson of Malawi Judiciary Committee on Conditions of Service said in a letter to OPC said that failure to address their grievance, they will “proceed to withhold labour.”
The government through a circular proposed a 51 percent increment for the highest paid Judiciary officer at grade P2 and 18 percent for grade M.
The government’s proposal meant that a Judiciary employee who was receiving K151 323 (about $302) at grade PO/CEO would have been at par with a general civil servant at K177 980 (about $355), representing an 18 percent increment.
The Judiciary has rejected the salary hike proposal and Justice Chikopa described the revision as “unacceptable” in a letter addressed to the secretary for the Department of Human Resource Management and Development (DHRMD) dated November 24 2014.
The Judiciary has made a demand of 52 percentage points more on grade PO/CEO, which is held by resident magistrates, 34 percentage points more on grade J, 19 percentage points more on grade M and 17 percentage points more for grade N to P.
Justice Chikopa said the salary revision is “against the law and agreement between central government and Judiciary”, adding that the percentages used by government “are incorrect.”
The ongoing strike is hampering progress of trials, as court operations remain suspended.
Several trials, including those in connection with the financial cashgate scandal have been indefinitely suspended.
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