MPs warn magistrates not to strike

2013-03-12 14:57

Legislators have warned magistrates locked in a pay dispute with the state that it would be improper for them to go on strike.

“You are public servants and you are behaving like a trade union,” ANC MP John Jeffery told the Judicial Officers’ Association of SA (Joasa) at a sitting of Parliament’s justice portfolio committee today.

Jeffery asked whether the strike would be legal.

Democratic Alliance MP Debbie Shaefer said: “The threat to strike will not do your cause any good.”

Joasa president Nazeem Joemath said he was “appalled” to learn of members’ decision to launch a week-long strike from March 18.

However, he said this was a last resort in a long-running pay dispute with the independent remuneration commission.

The portfolio committee was hearing presentations by three magistrates’ associations, which claim the commission failed to consider their submissions on their salary dispensation.

The commission, headed by Judge Willie Seriti, proposed an annual increase of 5.5%, which has to be approved by the president and both houses of Parliament, to take effect on April 1.

Chief among Joasa’s demands is that the commission immediately institute a single pay structure for all members of the judiciary.

A letter to members states that failing this, labour action will be extended.

“From the 18th to the 22nd of March 2013, only postponements will be done. If no substantial positive developments occur between the 18th and the 25th of March, the action will be escalated,” it said.

African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart said the impact on the justice system could be dire.

“Think of the unintended consequences your strike will have,” he said.

MPs heard that magistrates were aggrieved that their salaries had shrunk in recent years from 47% of the chief justice’s, to 30% of his pay package.

Jeffery said this did not mean their pay had been reduced, only that the chief justice had been granted a scale adjustment.

He said if the magistrates’ demands were met, they would get an unjustifiable, “almost 100% ” increase on their current entry-level annual salary of R671 000.

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