Judicial Service staff’s strike cripples courts

The epmty premises of the Suprime courtActivities of the country’s courts were yesterday brought to a halt, following an indefinite strike by the Judicial Service Staff Association of Ghana (JUSAG) over unpaid allowances.

The situation forced the closure of almost all courts in the country, as judges were unable to adjudicate over cases in the absence of JUSAG members, who are an important component in the justice delivery system.

The Ghanaian Times observed after a visit to some courts in Accra, that the courtrooms were locked, leaving some lawyers and their clients stranded.

Some of the judges were also spotted leaving the court premises due to inactivity.

The Supreme Court, which always looked busy during working days, was quiet and deserted.

Clients who had travelled from far and near to hear their cases were disappointed.

Speaking to The Times, the president of JUSAG, Alex Nartey, said, it was unfortunate that the situation had reached such a level, as numerous efforts to prevail on the relevant authorities to address their concerns, have proved futile.

He said the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations had, since July last year, given unfulfilled promises to the association. “We were made to understand that, our outstanding allowances would be paid by the close of March, which never came to pass.”

He said they followed it up with a series of letters expressing their frustration to the ministry, but were yet to receive any meaningful response.

The situation, according to him, became unbearable, compelling their National Executive Council to issue an ultimatum on May 7, which was also ignored.

Mr. Nartey told The Times that from the sequence of events, the only option left for them was to embark on an indefinite strike.

He insisted that until the outstanding allowances were paid, the workers would not resume work.

Some lawyers who spoke to the paper, expressed disappointment at how the situation had affected their work, leaving them in limbo as to when work would be restored to normalcy.

Dan Afari-Yeboah, one of the lawyers, said for close to 30 years of practice, he had not witnessed such a situation which had tremendously affected their work in such a manner.

He said the situation had deprived both lawyers and their clients of all the services of the court, which was unusual.

He called for immediate steps to address the situation. .

Some people who had come to the court from far and near, also expressed their frustration to the paper.

Derrick Addo, who had travelled from Takoradi for his attestation paper to enable him to travel to Cote d’Iviore the next day, felt disappointed as a result of the situation.

Robert Ocran, in an interview, said his case had been running for 12 years and the judgement on the matter was due for yesterday, but did not materialise, due to the strike.

Meanwhile, Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, has expressed surprise and disappointment at the strike by JUSAG.

According him, the ministry met the executive of JUSAG in the presence of the Judicial Secretary, Mr. Poku Acheampong, who represented the Chief Justice and they reached an amicable resolution on the issues raised.

He said at the meeting, it was agreed by both parties that by June 30, issues raised concerning the review of their conditions of service would be addressed, subject to the Judicial Council meeting to review a proposal from JUSAG.

From Wa, Upper West Regional Correspondent, Cliff Ekufu, reports that the strike had crippled the adjudication of cases in the Upper West Region, as clients who turned up at the various courts to hear their cases, had to return home in frustration, because the entrances to the courts were closed.

Efforts to speak to some of the workers proved futile as there was nobody present.

Some of the clients who spoke to The Ghanaian Times, said they were disappointed with the service because they had travelled from far places to the regional capital, Wa, only to be informed that the courts were on strike.

David O. Yarboi-Tetteh, the Central Regional Correspondent, reports that offices of the Cape Coast Court Complex were locked due to the strike, with some clients who went there to transact business returning to their various homes, dejected.

A number of people who had their cases fixed for hearing yesterday, had to return to their homes disappointed, because of the strike.

Kingsley E.Hope, reports from Kumasi that the strike left clients, who had travelled from parts of the Ashanti Region, to the metropolis to hear their cases, stranded at various courts.

“Ah, but I was here on Tuesday, and nobody told me of this strike”, a woman told this reporter at the High Court, where all the gates had been locked, with red banners hanging on the padlocks.

At the other courts in the metropolis such as Ash Town, the situation was similar as lawyers and clients were left stranded.

From Sunyani, Daniel Dzirasah reports that the various courts in the Sunyani municipality were empty, as workers did not show up for work following the strike.

A visit to the Sunyani High and the Circuit Courts by The Ghanaian Times at 12:30 p.m. yesterday, saw a virtually empty place, with red bands tied infront of the main gates.

The Brong-Ahafo Regional Chairman of the JUSAG, Ernest Boakye Afram, said they were on strike because the government had failed to comply with provisions of the 1992 Constitution which required it to pay into the Judicial Service Account, funds that shall be required for its smooth administration.

From Bolgatanga, Ibrahim Mohammed, reports that the courts in the   Bolgatanga Municipality did not sit yesterday, due to the nationwide strike, adding that both High Courts A and B as well as the Circuit Courts, in the same building, did not open for cases to be heard.

From Ho, Kafui Gati reports that the Volta Regional branch of the JUSAG also joined the nationwide strike rendering the courts inoperative.

Though some High Court judges were at post, court proceedings could not go on.

From Ave-Dakpa, Alberto Mario Noretti reports that the District Magistrate’s Court in the Akatsi North District could not sit yesterday. Even though, the Presiding Judge, Ms. Grace Osei, turned up for work, the three staff members — the registrar, the court recorder and the bailiff — were not at post.

As at 1:00 p.m., the court premises were still empty.

By Edem Mensah-Tsotorme

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