Magistrates take salary hike plea to Parliament

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Cape Town - Desperate magistrates have turned to Parliament for help after missing out on salary increases granted to their public service counterparts almost seven months ago.

This comes after magistrates themselves rejected the 5.5 percent increase offered to them last year.

Parliament’s oversight committee on justice said last week it would ask the National Council of Provinces to review its decision, based on the magistrates’ objections, to reject the 5.5 percent increase recommended by the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers for the 2012/2013 financial year.

The increase was rejected by the NCOP after judicial unions – the Judicial Officers Association of SA and Association of Regional Magistrates of Southern Africa (Armsa) – asked the council not to approve it.

They were aggrieved by the blanket pay hike, which they said would effectively increase the gap in earnings between themselves and judges.

In September the Pretoria High Court set aside the previous 5 percent increase that had been backdated to April 1, 2010.

Armsa had argued that the increase amounted, in effect, to a reduction in regional magistrates’ salaries as it did not keep up with inflation, and that the independent commission had not taken account of its members when making its recommendation for a 5 percent increase on the basis of “one size fits all”.

Magistrates have in the past been the unhappiest of all public office-bearers, having also challenged proposed salary increases in 2009, 2010 and in 2011.

If they had accepted the 5.5 percent rise last year, a “special grade” chief magistrate would have earned R1.06 million a year, a regional court and a chief magistrate R944 089, a senior magistrate R777 887 and an ordinary magistrate R708 136.

This compares to the salary of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, after the increase, of R2.36m; that of a Supreme Court of Appeal judge at R2.12m; R1.89m for a Constitutional Court judge and R1.53m for a high Court or Labour Court judge.

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