MPs to approve magistrates' increase

2013-03-13 14:50
(Picture: Supplied)

(Picture: Supplied)

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Cape Town - MPs are set to approve a 5.5% salary increase for magistrates after condemning their threats to go on strike next week in protest over their pay structure.

Parliament's portfolio committee on justice on Wednesday adopted a report recommending the National Assembly ratify the increase, recommended by the commission for the remuneration of public office bearers last year.

It is expected to do so on Thursday, which will see magistrates paid their increases backdated from April last year.

The magistracy is at odds with the commission and the president on the issue, and has been trying to force a review of the commission's allocations for the past two years, on the basis that they were not properly consulted.

The Association of Regional Court Magistrates of Southern Africa successfully challenged the commission's 2011 recommendation and won a court order that the president review his decision to approve it.

That matter has now been taken to the Constitutional Court and a ruling is expected soon.

In the meanwhile, the Judicial Officers' Association of SA (Joasa) has threatened to bring lower courts to a standstill from Monday.

 It said its members - who account for more half of the country's roughly 2 000 magistrates - would hear only postponements for a week.

Moreover, Joasa said in a newsletter this week that unless its demands were met it would step up the strike action.

The portfolio committee said in its report on Wednesday that it took a "dim view" of what would, in its view, be an illegal industrial action.

"This cannot be supported; no matter what the level of frustration, it is unacceptable that the public be disproportionately prejudiced in this way."

Recommendations queried

The committee had grappled with a request by the two magistrates' associations that it query the commission's recommendations.

But it concluded that its powers did not extend beyond approving or disapproving the commission's recommendation, and that doing otherwise would create a conflict of interests because the commission also determined the salaries of MPs.

"The committee understands its role to be limited... it is in no position, nor does it feel that it would be appropriate, for it to interrogate the recommendations of the independent commission."

However, MPs from both the ANC and the DA noted it might yet have to reconsider its position if the Constitutional Court, in its upcoming judgment, passed comment on the matter.

"The Constitutional Court might have a view on our role... if that happens we will have to change our view," DA MP Dene Smuts said.

Magistrates argue that their responsibilities have been extended by post-democratic legislation.

They 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.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  joasa  |  dene smuts  |  cape town  |  parliament 2013  |  strikes

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