The Attorney General (AG) yesterday obtained an injunction stopping Judiciary support staff from proceeding with their strike scheduled to start today to push management to give them housing allowance.
Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson Apoche Itimu said in an interview last evening the planned strike does not comply with Section 44 of the Labour Relations Act; hence, the action.
She said: “I just got an injunction restraining them [the staff] right now. They have not complied with Section 44 of the Labour Relations Act, which makes it a mandatory requirement to give reconciliation or dialogue a chance.”
Itimu, who is also a senior State advocate in the ministry, said the support staff needed to follow the right procedure of presenting their grievances to the ministry’s Principal Secretary and wait for a response within 21 days before staging a strike.
A copy of the injunction shows that the AG is the applicant with Charles Emuhiyemwana Lizigeni and all other members of Judiciary support staff as respondents.
Judiciary support staff planned to go on strike today demanding that their management resolves issues of housing allowance.
The injunction came hours after the Judiciary management, in a statement published yesterday, acknowledged the staff grievances, but urged the employees to follow procedures.
Reads in part the Judiciary management statement: “The notice is purportedly issued pursuant to Section 46(3) of the Labour Relations Act. The Judiciary management is aware of the grievances the members of staff have in relation to the housing allowances issue and has over a period of time engaged the members themselves on the matter.”
In the statement, Judiciary management branded the planned strike as illegal, pointing out that it was not done in full compliance with the requisite procedures laid down under the Labour Relations Act and all relevant laws.
“Such being the case, the members of staff who fail to report and carry out their duties as usual will be considered absent from duty,” added the statement.
In a March 20 2017 letter to management, Judiciary support staff—comprising court clerks, court marshals, interpreters and court reporters—asked the Judicial Service Commission to forward their grievances to the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development.
Through the letter, the staff demanded that their conditions of service should be harmonised with those of judicial officers—judges and magistrates.
The staff issued a 21-day ultimatum to have their demands addressed or authorities risked unspecified action.
Courts cannot function in the absence of the support staff.
In February this year, judges and magistrates staged a similar sit-in to press government to pay them housing allowance as approved by Parliament in 2012, other benefits and arrears dating back to July 2016.
In an earlier interview, spokesperson for the support staff, Andy Haliwa, said the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development was expected to effect payment of housing allowances to the support staff as well.
Wheels of justice in the country ground to a halt following a prolonged strike by the support staff from November 2014 to January 2015. Then the staff demanded salary increment equal to their mainstream civil service counterparts.
The seven weeks of the strike led to congestion in police holding cells and accumulation of cases in court.