The Judiciary support staff will on Tuesday ask the High Court in Lilongwe to vacate an injunction the Attorney General (AG) obtained to halt their strike that only ran for a few hours on May 2 this year.
Judiciary union president Charles Lisigeni said in an interview yesterday that once the High Court vacates the injunction, all Judiciary support staff would immediately resume their strike to press authorities to start paying them house allowances.
After the injunction was served on the Judiciary support staff on May 2, AG Kalekeni Kaphale proposed that both parties should appoint conciliators to resolve the matter amicably other than downing tools.
But Lisigeni said their side proposed three names and these were renowned lawyer Modecai Msisha and two retired judges Atanazio Tembo and Isaac Mtambo.
“We presented these names to the AG’s side about three weeks ago so that they can consider picking them or choosing from that list as our conciliators, but up to now we have not heard from them.
“So, we wonder was this a ploy to suppress our industrial action? It is on this basis we have resolved to have the injunction vacated so that we can go ahead with our strike,” Lisigeni said.
But Kaphale in an interview yesterday said he engaged Treasury to weigh lawfulness of the demand by the Judiciary support staff, explaining that the other issues about negotiations were being handled by another officer, Apoche Itimu.
Itimu could not be reached on her mobile phone yesterday.
Lisigeni said previously they were receiving the house allowance but it was removed sometime in early 2000 after government introduced a clean wage.
In February this year, judges and magistrates staged a similar sit-in to press government to pay them housing allowances as approved by Parliament in 2012, other benefits and arrears dating back to July 2016.
“Why segregating us? We found this to be unfair. On Tuesday, we will be telling the court that the AG has failed to abide by his commitment to have this matter resolved through the conciliators and that the injunction must be removed.
“Seven days was a reasonable time for them to respond to us and present their conciliators, but this silence is questionable,” said Lisigeni.
The threat by the Judiciary support staff to strike is coming hot on the heels of another seven-month long strike by lecturers at Chancellor College that just got resolved last week after government assured to address salary disparities in the University of Malawi—which was the bone of contention.
It is also coming at a time civil servants have successfully negotiated with government for a salary increment where the lowest paid got 20 percent, as opposed to 10 percent which Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe announced when he presented the 2017/18 National Budget in Parliament recently.
Itimu had earlier argued that the planned strike did not comply with Section 44 of the Labour Relations Act, which makes it mandatory to give reconciliation or dialogue a chance.
Judiciary management also branded the planned strike 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.
Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula in an interview yesterday said they were aware about the development but expressed hope that the two parties would resolve their differences amicably.
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 support staff later issued a 21-day and seven–day ultimatums, respectively to have their demands addressed or authorities risked unspecified action.