Judges of the lower courts have served notices to withdraw their services from March 21, this year, if issues concerning their salaries and working conditions were not addressed.
They have also decided to withdraw from further salary negotiations because after meeting several times with the Joint Judicial Council and Government Negotiating Team between February 26 and March 2, this year, nothing concrete had been achieved.
A source close to the judges and magistrates further noted that; “The Government Team has shown a marked unwillingness to resolve the salary issues of the lower bench” and that could be seen by their failure to produce expected figures for this year’s salary levels as discussed and previously agreed on.
A letter cited by the Ghana News Agency said the Government Team have “shifted goal posts regarding agreed positions on specific issues at previous meetings and employed certain manoeuvres and given various excuses to delay the lower bench of what is rightfully ours.”
To the members of the lower bench what they found more alarming was that, government had also refused to pay salary figures proposed by the Judicial Council for the year 2016 and same, which had been approved by Parliament in the Appropriation Act, effective from January this year, it said.
In the letter copied to the Chief Justice, Judicial Council, Chief of Staff, and Ministry of Finance, among others, the judges recounted that historically their dealings with the Ministry of Finance since 2013 had been characterised by the “deliberate invention of errors and mistakes, withdrawal of salaries, reduction in salaries and delay tactics.”
“We find that these actions of the Government are a violation of Article 149 of the 1992 Constitution.
“It is our view that government‘s attitude frustrates the work of the Judicial Council on salaries of the lower bench by treating the work of the Council itself and lower bench with contempt,’’ the letter said.
The members of the lower bench have, therefore, called for immediate payment of the 2016 salaries levels captured in the 2018 Budget as approved by Parliament.
The source said challenges faced by members of the lower bench that had not been addressed include lack of personal security for judges and magistrates, lack of armed security in the courts, poor conditions of courtrooms and chambers and non availability of risk allowances due to the nature of their work.
Members of the lower bench have served several notices to embark on strike over their salaries and conditions of services since 2013.
Soon after declaring their intentions, they are invited to the negotiating table but after these various meetings, implementation of issues discussed are left hanging.