Magistrates' strike: No court disruptions

2013-03-18 14:48
Magistrates are demanding a single pay structure for the judiciary: One that would have their salaries and benefits put on the same sliding scale as those of judges.

Magistrates are demanding a single pay structure for the judiciary: One that would have their salaries and benefits put on the same sliding scale as those of judges. (Shutterstock)

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Johannesburg - Courts around the country were operating as usual on Monday despite a planned strike by magistrates.

"Courts are functioning normally in Gauteng, Free State, Limpopo, Northern Cape, North West, Western Cape and all other provinces, with no disruptions," justice department spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said in a statement.

The situation would be monitored and contingency plans were in place should there be disruptions, he said.

Earlier, Vick Misser, director of the Johannesburg court cluster, said there were no major disruptions in the city.

"All magistrates have reported for duty," he said.

In the Durban Magistrate's Court, chief magistrate Thamsanqa Mabaso said: "There is a good turnout and we have normal rolls."

Single pay structure

He had not heard of any disruptions at his court.

In a statement, the Office of the Chief Justice said: "Should the strike action materialise, it would be regrettable.

"It should also be stated that the Office of the Chief Justice is satisfied that the magistrates' commission... has put in place adequate measures to deal with any disruptions that may arise from the impending strike action."

Magistrates want a single pay structure for the judiciary, one that would have their salaries and benefits put on the same sliding scale as those of judges. This could see their salaries increase by almost 100%.

Mhaga said on Sunday the justice department was working to ensure that salary adjustments of 5.5% for 1912 magistrates would be implemented by 15 April and backdated to the beginning of that month.

A dispute over the salary increase forms part of a matter before the Constitutional Court.

On 19 February the Constitutional Court heard an application for confirmation and variation of an order of constitutional invalidity, and a conditional application for leave to appeal against a decision of the Pretoria High Court by the Association of Regional Magistrates of SA (Armsa).

Constitutional Court application

The application followed a decision by President Jacob Zuma in 2010 to increase the remuneration of regional magistrates and regional court presidents by 5% with effect from 1 Apri 2010. This was based on a recommendation from the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers for a 7% increase.

Armsa applied to the High Court to review and set aside the president's decision. It contended it was a reduction in remuneration, procedurally unfair, and took a one-size-fits-all approach.

Armsa sought to have the matter remitted to the president for reconsideration, subject to an invitation for representations from regional magistrates and regional court presidents. The High Court granted part of the relief sought by Armsa.

It held that the president's decision was not an administrative action, but was reviewable under the principle of legality. The High Court upheld only one ground in relation to the one-size-fits-all approach.

Armsa then applied to the Constitutional Court for confirmation and variation of the High Court order. It also applied for leave to appeal against part of the High Court's order. It argued the matter raised a clear constitutional issue, that there were reasonable prospects of success, and it that it was in the interest of justice to grant leave to appeal to the Constitutional Court directly.

The remuneration commission opposed the application and sought leave to appeal the entire judgment and the order of the High Court.

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