Govt dismisses lawyers

Government has with immediate effect dismissed 18 state advocates for engaging in what it described  an ‘‘illegal industrial action’’ demanding K3,600 non practicing allowance which is said to have been abolished.

Ironically, of the 18 dismissed state advocates, 16 are female lawyers.

For the past two weeks the state advocates were reporting for work but did not attend to cases or go to court which resulted in cases being adjourned and piling up at the ministry.

According to a letter signed by Ministry of Justice permanent secretary in charge of administration Joseph Akafumba and given to the 18 affected government lawyers yesterday afternoon, the lawyers were dismissed for their illegal industrial action and for demanding K3, 600 non practicing allowances.

Non-practicing allowance is a fee paid to lawyers in government as an incentive for them not to engage in private practice or payment for foregoing private practice.

The non-practice allowance is the diference between learner legal lawyers and qualified lawyers and the advocates had been receiving the allowance until September when it was suddenly abolished.

The lawyers are wondering why government had decided to abolish the K3,600 non-practicing allowance without giving any explanation for the decision..

And the state advocates told the Daily Nation that it was unfair for government to dismiss the lawyers because it had not handled the matter in the way it handled issues to do with Konkola Copper Mine and striking nurses.

They complained that government was ready to entertain demands for higher wages from politicians and senior officers and that some people within the ministry were receiving higher wages than what they were demanding for.

They wondered why government treated the advocates in such a harsh manner when it was spending a lot of money on people that were not doing most of the work.

The lawyers demanded for K3, 600 non- practicing allowances but the ministry of justice was not ready to enter into bargaining with the lawyers resulting in the advocates boycotting court sessions.

However, when contacted for comment the secretary to Akafumba at the ministry of justice said the permanent secretary was not in the office as he was attending a meeting at the Judiciary.

And a senior lawyer at the ministry told the Daily Nation that it was unfair for the permanent secretary to dismiss the lawyers for demanding such a little amount of money.

“We have heard about the dismissals and we are yet to find out what exactly happened. As advocates that have served in government for some years, we feel the step taken by the permanent secretary was a rushed decision. The permanent secretary should realise that the number of lawyers in government is less compared to the number of cases that we have. This action will add more pressure to other people that were working which will end in undesirable results.

“As lawyers it is very rare that we resort to industrial action because generally lawyers are in management and management never goes on strike. Even for unionised workers who are allowed to go on strike, there are procedures to follow. If the said lawyers were demanding for those monies, it is right and justified because that is their entitlement and if anything this money is just too little, we would like to appeal to the minister to intervene in the matter by cancelling the dismissals,” he said.The senior advocate said the move set a very bad precedent and hoped that the permanent secretary would talk to the lawyers and resolve the issue.