Graphic Online

Graphic Online 

Circuit court judges, magistrates to strike over payment of new salaries

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson

Circuit court judges and district court magistrates have given the government up to March 21, 2018 to improve their conditions of service or they would withdraw their services.

“We give notice of our intention to withdraw our services from March 21, 2018. The relevant notice period is deemed to have been given,’’ the judges said in a letter addressed to the Chief Justice and the Chief of Staff at the Office of the President.

In the letter, the lower court judges said the government had refused to pay their new salaries as proposed by the Judicial Council in 2016 and approved by Parliament in the 2018 budget.

According to them, after meeting with the Joint Judicial Council-Government Negotiating Team, they had come to the realisation that the government team was not ready to address their concerns

“The government team has shown a marked unwillingness to resolve the salary issue of the lower bench, evidenced by its failure to produce the expected figures for 2018 salary levels,’’ they said.

Demands


The lower court judges are demanding the immediate payment of their salaries as approved by Parliament in the 2018 budget and all their outstanding allowances, such as fuel and rent and additional duty and book allowances.

They also want the government to address the challenges they face in the discharge of their duties.

These include lack of personal security, inadequate security on court premises and poor conditions of services.

Judicial independence

The judges are of the view that the government, by instituting a negotiation team to resolve their conditions of service, has breached Article 149 of the 1992 Constitution.

Article 149 stipulates that the conditions of service of judges shall be determined by the President, upon the advice of the Judicial Council.

The judges have also described the inaction of the government to resolve their grievances as interference with the independence of the Judiciary, as championed by the 1992 Constitution.

“It is a calculated strategy to weaken the Judiciary by keeping the majority of its members in penury,’’ the letter stated.

Strike

This is not the first time the lower court judges have threatened to embark on strike.

They have issued about four notices since 2016 about their intention to embark on strike due to what they describe as their poor conditions of services.

They, however, rescinded their decision to embark on strike on all the four occasions following interventions by the Chief Justice.

Apart from the judges, the Judicial Service Staff Association (JUSAG), whose members make up the bulk of the administrative and other ancillary staff of the Judiciary, also threatened to embark on strike early this year.

They have also put their strike on hold, following an intervention by the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo.