Contingency plans are in place for a possible pay strike by magistrates next week, acting government spokeswoman Phumla Williams said on Thursday (14/03/2013).
"The department of justice has assured (Cabinet) that there are contingency plans, that there will be work going on in the justice system in the event they go out on strike,” Williams said during the fortnightly post Cabinet briefing.
She could not elaborate on what the contingency measures were.
Williams said there was no need for magistrates to embark on a go-slow as the pay issue was being treated with "the urgency it deserves”.
She said the executive had noted recommendations by the Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers to adjust magistrates’ salaries by 5.5 percent.
"The recommendation is being referred to the National Council of Provinces for further processing.
"Cabinet wishes to assure the public that the administration of justice will not be affected while this matter is being resolved through the parliamentary process,” Williams said.
Earlier in the week, MPs berated magistrates for threatening to strike.
Magistrates are demanding a single pay structure for the judiciary: one that would have their salaries and benefits put on the same sliding scale as those of judges. This could see their salaries increase by almost 100 percent.
The magistracy is at odds with the commission and the president on the issue, and has been trying to force a review of the commission’s allocations for the past two years, on the basis that it was not properly consulted.
The Association of Regional Court Magistrates of Southern Africa successfully challenged the commission’s 2011 recommendation and won a court order that the president review his decision to approve it.
That matter has now been taken to the Constitutional Court, and a ruling is expected soon.
Meanwhile, the Judicial Officers’ Association of SA (Joasa), has threatened to bring lower courts to a standstill from Monday.
It said its members — who account for more than half the country’s roughly 2000 magistrates — would hear only postponements for a week. Joasa said in a newsletter this week that unless its demands were met it would step up the strike action.
The portfolio committee on justice said in its report on Wednesday that it took a "dim view” of what would, in its view, be an illegal industrial action.
"This cannot be supported; no matter what the level of frustration, it is unacceptable that the public be disproportionately prejudiced in this way.” - Sapa