January 10, 2012

Judicial strike shuts down courts

Malawi’s courts have stopped work as some 2.000 judicial workers are on an indefinite strike over work conditions and higher pay. The workers started boycotting their jobs on January 9 following government’s failure to implement new conditions of service as approved by Parliament in 2006.

“All 200 courts, from the high courts to magistrate courts, have closed down,” said Austin Kamanga, a spokesperson of the Judicial Action Group spearheading the strike in the poor Southern African nation.“We are fighting for new conditions of service which were approved by Parliament in 2006.” The Parliament had approved a 40% pay hike in 2006 and another 60% in 2009 but none of these had been implemented, the group claims. “The strike will be indefinite until our demands are met. The new conditions of service are to the benefit of everybody, from high court judges to the junior staff,” Kamanga said. Discussions between the government and judicial officials “had been going for some time” but without any conclusion, solicitor-general Anthony Kamanga said. “There are challenges in the system. Perhaps it is unfortunate that things have reached this stage. You can always find a solution, but striking is not the best way,” he said. “Competing demands” made it difficult for authorities to pay the necessary salaries, said Kamanga.

The government spends €21-million every month to pay 170 000 civil servants. On average, high court judges are paid about €4 700 while junior judicial workers go home with $100. The industrial action means that no court activity, including bail applications, will take place until the stand-off is resolved. (Sadocc/Mail&Guardian)

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