Godfrey Kaweesa, the President of Uganda Judicial Officers Association (UJOA) says since independence, judiciary has been struggling as an arm of government.
“The Judiciary is allocated about 0.45% of the national budget compared to other arms of government,” Kaweesa said Monday while appearing on NBS TV “Morning Breeze” programme.
When asked by Simon Kaggwa Njala, as to who will suffer from this current judicial officers’ strike, Kaweesa said the people of Uganda and all stakeholders.
Judges and magistrates declared a strike last week protesting meagre payments and lack of allowances as well as good working conditions.
Kaweesa says negotiations have been ongoing for the last 30 years but finance technocrats have been ignoring the president’s directive.
“The situation has reached a boiling point, we want to serve the people of Uganda but we are being marginalized,” he said, adding, “Our story hasn’t been told to the public but we are facing hardships.”
Kaweesa said the industrial action is unanimous and that it is a good cause for the Judiciary. “We are now being listened to.”
Kaweesa revealed that President Yoweri Museveni has accepted to meet the Speaker and Chief Justice to harmonise the budget. He also agreed to meet judicial officers.
“We are saying that at least give us 2% of the national budget, that’s about Shs300bn and then check our performance.”
According to the current pay structure, the chief justice earns Shs 20m, his deputy Shs 18m and the principal judge Shs 10m while a Supreme court judge earns Shs 9.6m and a judge of the Court of Appeal/Constitutional court gets Shs 9.3m. A High court judge earns Shs 9m.
Grade II magistrates earn Shs 737, 837, a month, senior grade II magistrates (Shs 860, 810), principal magistrate Grade II (Shs 1.2m), magistrate grade I (Shs 1.5m) and principal magistrate grade I (Shs 2.1m).
A senior principal magistrate grade I gets Shs 2.2m, chief magistrate (Shs 2.4m), assistant registrar earns Shs 3.1m and chief registrar earns Shs 4.8m.
UJOA now wants the pay to be revised as follows: chief justice to earn Shs 55m, his deputy Shs 53m, the principal judge 50m, justices of the Supreme court (who are seven) each to earn Shs 34m, justices of the Court of Appeal (who are 13) each to earn Shs 33m, Justices of the High court (who are 47) to earn Shs 31m each.
The chief registrar who is one, to earn Shs 27m, registrars (who are three) to earn Shs 23m, deputy registrars (who are 29) to earn Shs 21m, assistant registrars (who are 12) to earn Shs 20m, chief magistrates (who are 44) to earn Shs 17m, senior principal magistrate grade one, (their numbers are not stated since the positions are vacant) to earn Shs 14m each, principal magistrate grade I (who are four) to earn Shs 14m, senior magistrate grade I (who are three) to earn 13.7m, grade I magistrate (who are 187) to earn Shs 13.3m and senior principal magistrate Grade II to earn Shs 12.6m.
If government agrees to the above proposed salary structure, it would pay Shs 95 billion per year on salaries of judicial officials, up from Shs 14 billion.
They also propose that magistrates must have drivers who are paid Shs 500,000 per month. They also want a monthly fuel allowance of Shs 2m.
And in the aftermath of the murders of former police spokesperson, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, and Senior Principal State Attorney Joan Kagezi, they suggested that every judicial officer should get bodyguards.
Since judges have security, UJOA proposes a monthly security allowance of Shs 1m for each lower-level judicial officer.
UJOA proposes Shs 2m in housing allowance for magistrates in hard-to-reach and hard-to-stay upcountry stations.