File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Suspects depending on legal aid services were without legal representation on Wednesday as lawyers took to the streets to vent out their frustrations over working conditions.

The lawyers, some clad in academic gowns, protested outside Legal Aid offices officers in Braamfontein, Johannesburg  complaining about alleged unfair treatment at work. 

The employees claimed they had been victimised for raising their concerns regarding salaries and working conditions.

One of the protesters, Advocate Andile Mavatha, said the salary packages they were getting were not enough compared to the workload they were given.

“We are saying the employer needs to revisit the structure of salary packages including that of administrators and legal staff. 

"There’s racism that is happening from our employer. We have certain officers (white) who get preference over African ones.

"We have our prejudicial offices which are facilitating these allegations of racism,” said Mavatha.

He added: “We also demand a structure that is going to apply fairly and squarely. For example, let’s say I have the same experience as my counterpart and doing the same duties irrespective of race, it should be a fair and equal package.”

The sentiments were echoed by Vhambedzani Muregu, who added that  legal Aid employees have been going through a torrid time for years, where they were victimised and intimidated.  

Muregu said  they used to have a Group Life scheme that would give bereaved employees up to R2-million. 

"But the employer suddenly changed it, replacing it with a mere R250 000 across the board and no other benefits. There are also issues of our subscription fees, we have to pay fees to the mother body. 

Asked how much they contributed to the scheme to get so much in benefits, Muregu said they were contributing with an extra 30 minutes from their normal eight working hours everyday. He said this was changed after the employer cut its contract with Old Mutual.

Legal Aid South Africa Media and Marketing Manager Godfrey Matsobe could not immediately comment, asking that he be sent an email which he would respond to.