Legal Aid SA strike looms over poor working conditions, slashed benefits

14 May 2019 - 08:04 By TimesLIVE
Legal Aid SA workers are gearing up for a strike.
Legal Aid SA workers are gearing up for a strike.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Bad working conditions, a lack of security at work and changes to their group life cover policy are threatening to unleash a national strike by disgruntled workers at Legal Aid SA.

Legal Aid SA attorneys represent tens of thousands of people who cannot afford to hire private legal representatives in criminal and civil trials across South Africa.

Attorney Michael Motaung said with around 80% of accused in all cases before the courts being defended by the agency, no court would operate should there be a full-blown strike, the Citizen reported on Tuesday.

Business Day reported that staff were unhappy that their group life cover policy – which previously paid R2m to beneficiaries upon a member’s death - having been slashed to R250,000; horrible working conditions; and alleged abuse from the state-owned law firm’s senior executive.

“We were told this (the changes in life cover policy) was due to financial constraints but they actually went overboard with that one — you can’t mess with that scheme because we have been members for more than 10 years,” Motaung told Business Day.

Another grievance involved security concerns at Legal Aid SA headquarters in Braamfontein, where attorneys had been verbally abused by clients.

Workers are planning to protest in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Legal Aid SA COO Jerry Makokoane said the agency had faced budget cuts that affected its financial sustainability.