General News of 2014-04-12

Judges threaten strike

There is growing disquiet within the Judiciary following threats by magistrates and lower court judges to go on strike if the issue of their pay cuts is not addressed.

Lower court judges had suffered 50% pay cut on the order of the Chief of Staff at the Office of the President, Prosper Kweku Bani.

The government was sued over the pay cut by Samuel Ampomah, a farmer, last year, but the state informed the Supreme Court presided over by Justice William Atuguba, that it wanted an out-of-court settlement over the issue and the case was consequently withdrawn.

A few months after the out-of-court settlement, DAILY GUIDE learned, the Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, had failed to ensure a restoration of the salaries of the judges.

Mr. Terkper, according to a reliable source at the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department, had indicated that the salaries could not be restored because there was no money.

The source asserted that the Minister did not seem ready to compromise on the issue because the state does not have the money to ensure a restoration of the salaries.

This has angered the judges who have threatened to go on strike by the end of this month to press home their demands.

A source at the Judicial Service told DAILY GUIDE that apart from the 50% deductions, there had been additional cuts in the salaries of the judges up to GH¢100 a month.

The source said, “the lower court judges feel very disappointed with the way things are going and want to register their displeasure about the way they are being handled.”

The Supreme Court case was withdrawn by the farmer after Sylvester Williams, a state attorney in the case, initiated the out-of-court settlement.

The seven-member panel hearing the case had told the farmer at the last hearing that he could return to court anytime he felt the terms of settlement were unfavourable.

Other justices on the panel were Sophia Adinyera, Julius Ansah, Rose Owusu, Victor Jones Dotse, Kwasi Anin Yeboah and Paul Baffoe-Bonnie.

Mr. Ampomah dragged to court the Attorney-General and the Chief of Staff who purportedly withdrew the approval granted for the pay increases of judges.

Other defendants include the Minister of Finance as well as the Controller and Accountant-General.

The farmer was seeking to invoke the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Articles 2, 17(2), 36(2), 127(1) and 5 of the Constitution.

Mr. Ampomah believed the letter by the Chief of Staff, dated April 10, 2013, which informed the Chief Justice and directed her to act on the decision to withdraw an approval of the judges’ salary increases – which he (Chief of Staff) claimed was done inadvertently – amounted to discrimination.