Legal Aid SA strike over employee benefits suspended

September 9th, 2019
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By Kgomotso Ramotsho

Legal Aid South Africa (Legal Aid SA) welcomed the news of the suspension of the strike by its employees, as the impact on the functioning of the country’s courts was minimal. This comes after a group of employees at Legal Aid SA embarked on a strike that started on 19 August, following a peaceful demonstration that took place at their national office in May. A memorandum was handed over at the May demonstration, which was timeously responded to by management. However, management did not in any way address or attempt to address the employee’s demands.

According to the statement the strike was over the reduction of a limited number of employee benefits as a result of the budget shortfall that Legal Aid SA has experienced over the past few years. The statement added that reduction in benefits, such as the rightsizing of Legal Aid SA’s Group Life Cover Policy Scheme, was done as a last resort to avoid the retrenchment of staff.

In the memorandum, the staff’s demands included –

  • the recalling of the Legal Aid SA representative from the Legal Practice Council;
  • better salaries for all employees, including administration/support and legal staff;
  • proper implementation of occupation specific dispensation;
  • the end to victimisation, intimidation and inhuman treatment of employees;
  • the re-instatement of the group life cover policy scheme;
  • the re-instatement of membership subscription fee benefits;
  • the rejection to the current structure of incentive bonuses;
  • the rejection of the two months stipend of employment contracts of candidate legal practitioners;
  • registration fees of candidate legal practitioners to be paid by the employer;
  • law school registration of candidate legal practitioners to be paid by the employer;
  • proper study leave for candidate legal practitioners;
  • an end to Saturday work for candidate legal practitioners;
  • better working conditions;
  • rejection of an unconsultative movement of employees;
  • a fair transfer policy;
  • all medical schemes must be accessible to employees;
  • adherence to the laws governing retirement;
  • reasonable allocation of the workload to all employees (legal and support staff);
  • opportunities for growth to district legal practitioners, regional court practitioners and civil practitioners’ level 1;
  • an amendment on the advertisement for the position for the Chief Executive Officer;
  • a review of the appointment of board members of Legal Aid SA;
  • non-interference of the managers on the completion of surveys;
  • the independence of the office of the current labour relations officer; and
  • respect the right of freedom of association.

The employees are mindful of the budgetary constraints, however, according to the memorandum, the employees believe that the budgetary cuts should be directed on luxurious and unnecessary expenditures.

Legal Aid SA said its employees are the greatest asset in ensuring that access to justice is made possible in South Africa.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.