Johannesburg - If magistrates go ahead with a planned strike on Monday, it would jeopardise the welfare of the people they are obliged to render a service to, the Office of the Chief Justice said.

“Should the strike action materialise, it would be regrettable,” it said in a statement.

“It should also be stated that the Office of the Chief Justice is satisfied that the magistrates' commission… has put in place adequate measures to deal with any disruptions that may arise from the impending strike action.”

The strike was expected to begin on Monday. Magistrates 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. This could see their salaries increase by almost 100 percent.

On Sunday, justice department spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said the strike would cause little disruption, as acting magistrates had been appointed.

Acting magistrates would deal with cases that were ready to proceed.

Mhaga said magistrates were classified as public office-bearers and, as such, “whatever they do is illegal”.

Magistrates who join the strike could face disciplinary action or even impeachment, he said.

If members of the public experienced problems on Monday, they should contact the court managers, who would be at all the courts.

Mhaga said the justice department was working to ensure that salary adjustments of 5.5 percent for 1912 magistrates would be implemented by April 15 and backdated to the beginning of that month.

BDLive reported that the Association of Regional Magistrates of SA had been to court once over the salary structure of magistrates and won. The matter had been taken on appeal to the Constitutional Court. Judgment was expected soon. The main contention was that the commission was failing to consult magistrates before ruling on salary increases. - Sapa