Judiciary Members of Staff Union (Jumsu) have threatened to stop reporting for duties from next Monday if Treasury does not provide them with coronavirus (Covid-19) special funds they requested prior to the June 23 fresh presidential election.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Jumsu spokesperson Andy Haliwa said since they wrote Treasury asking for the funds, there has been no response to date.
He said: “We wrote Treasury before the elections asking for special funds to protect ourselves during this time because those who are working on shifts need personal protective equipment [PPE].”
Haliwa said the silence from Treasury prompted the union to meet on Monday and they resolved to stop reporting for duties next week if their demand is not met.
The concerned workers include court clerks, court marshals, drivers, interpreters, court reporters and those working in the administration and human resource department.
In the absence of the Covid-19 special funding, Haliwa said they have been using money from their Other Recurrent Transactions, which has affected other services when discharging their duties.
But in a separate interview, High Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal registrar Agnes Patemba declined to comment on the matter, saying she was not aware of the development.
However, a letter dated June 8 2020 copied to Patemba’s office states that if the judicial staff do not receive the special funds, they will stop reporting for work.
Reads the letter in part: “As such we will advise members of staff of the Judiciary to be working from home as is the case with other government departments.”
Jumsu president Charles Lizigeni said they delivered the letter to Treasury and also notified the registrar in writing a week before the fresh presidential election.
When contacted, Treasury spokesperson Williams Banda said he needed to consult before responding.
Meanwhile, the Malawi Law Society honorary secretary Martha Kaukonde said the workers need to follow procedures before abandoning work.
She said: “There are steps employees need to follow before embarking on an industrial action. One such step is notice and dialogue. If the steps are not followed, it would be against the conditions of service and law.”
In 2017, the workers staged a nationwide strike due to unresolved grievances, including housing allowances they were demanding from government.
The strike negatively impacted the country’s justice delivery system, a development that led the courts to move to police cells and prisons.