Members of Judiciary support staff have threatened to down their tools giving government a 21-day ultimatum to start paying them their housing allowances.
They are also demanding that their conditions of service be harmonised with that of judicial officers.
According to spokesperson for the support staff, Andy Haliwa, the support staff members who include court clerks, court marshals, interpreters and court reporters on March 20 wrote the Judicial Service Commission to take their grievances to the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development.
Haliwa in an interview on Thursday said failure by authorities to act on their grievances will lead them into laying down their tools.
Haliwa said the demands follow a decision by the ministry to start paying judicial officers which include judges and magistrates housing allowances.
The Judicial officers staged 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.
According to Haliwa, the decision emanating from the sit in was supposed to apply on the support staff as well.
He said: “We wrote a letter to the Judicial Service Commission in which we raised the issue but up to now no tangible answer has come from them.
According to the Judicial Administration Act, if Parliament approves certain conditions to the judicial officers, the Ministry is supposed to automatically effect the same on the support staff. We are now surprised that our colleagues are getting housing allowances while we are not.”
Haliwa said the situation has thus compelled the support staff to call for the review of the Act arguing that it is an error for one arm of government to have two different approving authorities.
Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula said chairperson for judiciary conditions of Service committee Justice Rezine Mzikamanda is expected to take the grievances to the ministry of finance which is then expected to relay its response to the Judiciary Service Commission.
“There was a meeting some two to three weeks ago where the support staff expressed concerns regarding the issue of housing allowances. They were supposed to be given feedback in 14 days and after seeing that nothing was being communicated to them regarding the issue, they issued a letter on Monday, giving the ultimatum,” said Mvula.
Mvula also conceded that the issue of having two approving authorities has been a long standing problem within the judiciary.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe said in an interview Thursday, he was not aware of the issue regarding the ultimatum.
“I am not aware of that issue, in fact I am hearing it from you,” he said.
Gondwe said the ministry stopped paying the support staff housing allowances following a government decision in 2005 to follow the clean wage system.
On December 2 last year, the support staff across the country began an indefinite industrial strike pressing government for a 27 percent increment and salary arrears among others.
The strike was suspended a week later following a protracted negotiation with management over the issue.
The support staff also staged a historic strike which started in November 2014 and ended in January 2015.
They demanded salary increment equal to their mainstream civil service counterparts.
The seven weeks of the strike lead to congestion in police holding cells and accumulation of court cases.