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Cape Town - The administration of justice will not be affected while the issue of magistrates' salaries is being dealt with in Parliament, acting government spokeswoman Phumla Williams said on Thursday.
Briefing journalists following Cabinet's regular Wednesday fortnightly meeting, she said the executive had noted the 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.
Following a meeting of the National Assembly's justice committee on Wednesday, MPs were set to approve the 5.5 percent salary increase for magistrates, after condemning their threats to go on strike next week in protest over their pay structure.
The committee adopted a report in which the commission recommended last year that the National Assembly ratify the increase.
It was expected to do so on Thursday, which would see magistrates paid their increases backdated from April last year.
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 of the country's roughly 2000 magistrates - would hear only postponements for a week.
Moreover, Joasa said in a newsletter this week that unless its demands were met it would step up the strike action.
The portfolio committee 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.”
Magistrates argue that their responsibilities have been extended by post-democratic legislation.
They want 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. - Sapa