Legal Aid SA accused of intimidation to stop demonstration

The Citizen writes that Legal Aid South Africa has been accused of using intimidation tactics to discourage workers, including lawyers and support staff, from taking part in today’s planned demonstrations. An internal memo – the contents of which workers believe are crafted to thwart support for the demonstration – sent to staff reminds workers intending to participate that their actions would not be protected by the Labour Relations Act but by the Regulation of Gatherings Act. The memo, sent out this week by the human resources department, reminds workers that the agency did not agree with the demonstration at the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Since the demonstrations will be taking place during working hours, the “no work, no pay” principle will be applied for a minimum of half a day to a full day for those participating, the memo stated. As part of a build-up to a full-blown strike, workers will today hold demonstrations at the public legal agency’s Braamfontein offices. Workers claim Legal Aid SA has failed to address their safety concerns, with people simply walking into their offices to attack them, despite, according to the Legal Aid SA’s annual report, the costs of security at the agency increasing from R2,144,152 in 2017 to R2,258,71 last year. They are also aggrieved by a debilitating workload which, they said, compromised quality at the expense of the accused, who depend on Legal Aid lawyers for justice. Legal Aid SA chief operating officer Dr Jerry Makokoane denied that the memo was to intimidate, saying they were simply engaging staff to detail the regulations around the intended action to ensure compliance with the relevant laws.

by Sipho Mabena