The Judiciary support staff have turned down an offer by the Malawi Law Society (MLS) to mediate on differences between the support staff and the Judiciary Service Commission regarding the issue of housing allowances.
The judiciary support staff are also demanding that conditions of services be harmonised with that of judiciary officers.
Concerned with recurrent strikes by staff at the court, which affects delivery of justice in the country, MLS decided to have an audience with the staff and hear their views if they can allow them become a mediator.
However, the support staff say they cannot allow MLS to mediate on the matter as it is among the friends of the court hence an interested party.
They have since given the Judicial Service Commission a seven day ultimatum of to resolve the issue with the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development and start paying them housing allowances.
Spokesperson for support staff union, Andy Haliwa union said they will lay down their tool starting Tuesday next week if authorities fail to address the issue by the end of this week.
“Realising that issues of labour disputes are subject to negotiations and in respect of Section 46 sub section 3 of the labour Act, we decided to add seven more days after the expiry of the 21 day ultimatum we gave the authorities towards the end of last month, but if they do not act on our grievances by the end of this week, next week Tuesday we will begin the sit-in,” said Haliwa.
MLS spokesperson Goba Chipeta, said the meeting on Tuesday was aimed at appreciating exactly what the problem was that led to recurrent strikes in the country’s courts and what can be done to resolve the issues.
Chipeta said as a legal fraternity, the industrial actions have consequently affected their legal work and public access to the court and they are trying to find a possible solution to the differences.
“However, the Union members have turned us down, but we will not stop there, we are still banging heads to find the way forward. We appreciate the number of stakeholders that are doing the same including the Chief Justice himself, Registrar of the High court and Supreme Court of Appeal,” said Chipeta.
The support staff who include court clerks, court marshals, interpreters and court reporters wrote to the Judiciary Service Commission to take their grievances to the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development on March 20.
The demands follow a decision by the ministry to start paying judiciary officers which include judges and magistrates housing allowances.
The Judiciary officers had to stage a sit-in early last month to press government to implement the payment of housing allowances approved by Parliament in 2012, other benefits and arrears dating back from July 2016.