Prosecutors and judges announce continued fight for their salaries - translation of the article by Patrycja Rojek-Socha JUSTICE NEWS, date added: 05.12.2022
The battle for judges' and prosecutors' salaries in 2023 has ended in defeat. They are to be calculated through the basis indicated in the Approximate Budget Act, and not as it appears in the Law on the System of Common Courts and the Law on the Public Prosecutor's Office. This means, that instead of an approx. 20 per cent increase they will get 7.8 per cent pay rise. Now it is time for the president to make his move. Meanwhile, more lawsuits are being submitted to the courts. For the time being, concerning salaries in 2022, and going down this path is even being considered by the registrars (also known as court referendariers).
Recall, according to the Law on the System of Common Courts and the Law on the Public Prosecutor's Office, the basis for determining basic remuneration is to be the average remuneration in the second quarter of the previous year, announced in the Official Journal of the Republic of Poland 'Monitor Polski' by the President of the Central Statistical Office pursuant to Article 20(2) of the Act of 17 December 1998 on pensions from the Social Insurance Fund. That is, it should be PLN 6156.245. The same is true for judges of the Supreme Court and judges of the Constitutional Tribunal. The government, in turn, introduced a fixed base of PLN 5,444.42 for all these professional groups in the law around the budget. The Senate proposed the deletion of the provision concerning common court judges, prosecutors and SN judges, while the issue of remuneration for Constitutional Tribunal judges was left as it was in the 'around-budget law'. In a vote on 1 December, the Sejm (first chamber of Parliament) did not accept these amendments.
The problems with salaries already started in 2021 when, due to the pandemic, the salaries of judges and prosecutors were kept at 2020 levels. In 2022. - which aroused great excitement and equally great opposition - salaries were calculated on the basis of Q2, but 2020, not 2021. The repetition in the current year has poured a spell of bitterness. Judges have already 'gone to court' on this issue. Model suits have been prepared for them by the Iustitia Association of Polish Judges. The Trade Union of Prosecutors and Employees of the Public Prosecutor's Office (ZZPiPP) emphasised to the end that it was counting on the Minister of Justice-Prosecutor General in the vote (all the more so since the MS had proposed from the beginning to set the salaries of these professional groups on the basis of their laws). The registrars, in turn, sent a letter to Sebastian Skuza, Deputy Minister of Finance, as late as 1 December.
Unconstitutional solution. Jacek Skała, a prosecutor and chairman of the ZZPiPP emphasises that prosecutors are not surprised but disappointed. - This disappointment concerns the vote of MPs gathered around the Prosecutor General. For on the one hand we have the opinion of the Ministry of Justice, from which it follows that the proposed solution is unconstitutional and exposes the State Treasury to claims, and on the other hand there are the results of the vote. Dagmara Pawełczyk-Woicka spoke about these risks to MPs at a meeting of the Finance Committee. chairwoman of the National Council of the Judiciary, and the Government representative replying said that the Council of Ministers was aware of these risks when adopting the draft. - The second aspect concerns the opposition's vote, which we see as a commitment to respect the law in the future. We just want the law to be respected," he points out. He also acknowledges that many prosecutors have so far refrained from filing lawsuits. - Now they will have no qualms. The General Council Office has already received the first few requests for calculations. We have set up a specialised financial cell there, which will calculate the claim on a pro bono basis. Non-unionised prosecutors can also benefit from this assistance in return for a donation to the Irena Babinska Foundation for Prosecutors and Prosecution Staff of the Republic of Poland. This foundation provides financial assistance to prosecutors and prosecution staff who require medical treatment or the purchase of medical or physiotherapy equipment," he says. And he adds that the union is also being asked to remind people where to find a specimen lawsuit. - It can be found on the website of our trade union. The General Council recommends that prosecutors address lawsuits now for 2022. There is no need to wait until the end of December. The action can always be extended before the court. Of course, we will also appeal to the President of the Republic of Poland to respond appropriately, within the scope of his powers, to yesterday's example of violation of the laws regulating the functioning of the prosecution service and the judiciary," he says.
Judges keep suing. Judges are also not surprised by the turn of events. Although they do not hide their bitterness. In their case, lawsuits are already reaching the courts, as we wrote at the beginning of November. - I was the second to file a suit in my district, but there is interest and other judges are considering doing so. Is it necessary? The question is whether, as judges, we can tolerate the breaking of the law by the authorities, or whether it bothers us. For me personally, it bothers me a lot, and it's not about the salary itself, it's about the fact that that's what the law in Poland is for, to obey it. The Polish Constitution regulates precisely and clearly how our salaries are determined. They are influenced only by objective indicators and are independent of arbitrary, day-to-day decisions of those in power. Such an objective way of determining judges' salaries is one of the guarantees of their independence," said then judge Tomasz Marczyński, vice-president of the Management Board of the "Iustitia" Polish Judges Association, from the District Court in Bełchatów. He now stresses that for him the Sejm's decision is not surprising. -Political considerations were the deciding factor. The government coalition is not guided by rational, substantive reasons. Its aim is to punish the judicial community for effectively defending the rule of law in Poland. Our idea, in addition to the actions we have taken in the public debate, is lawsuits by judges. At the moment this is the only real way to unfreeze salaries in the courts. As for lawsuits for the future period, I am not convinced of the point of this idea. I have filed a lawsuit for 2022, I will wait for the outcome of this case before I decide on the next steps," he says.
The registrars write do Deputy Minister. In their statement to Deputy Minister Skuza just before the vote, the registrars referred to his speech at the Public Accounts Committee on 1 December 2022. - You justified the need to fix, for the third year in a row, the salaries of adjudicators not on the basis of the provisions of the Law on the System of Common Courts, but on the basis of an index arbitrarily set by the executive. You indicated to the Minister that 2022 and the upcoming year 2023 are exceptional years due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The indicated events justify, according to the Minister, violating the provisions of the Law - Law on the System of Common Courts, they stressed. And they added that he also raised the fact that there are no planned raises for politicians in 2023.
In response to the above arguments, the registrars pointed out the following:
- despite the pandemic and the war, the salaries of secretaries and undersecretaries in the Ministry of Finance increased by 40 per cent in 2022 relative to 2021;
- the increase in the salaries of adjudicators was 4.4 per cent;
- despite the pandemic and war, awards of PLN 23 million were paid in the Ministry of Finance in 2022;
- awards of adjudicators amounted to PLN 0;
- no legal act regulates the salaries of politicians in the way the salaries of jurists and prosecutors are regulated;
- MPs and senators are not restricted in the exercise of their learned professions during their term of office as an MP or senator, - .
They bring up also that on 30 November, it was decided to allocate additional funds of PLN 700 million to public television in the 2023 budget. - This means that there were funds in the budget to pay the salaries of adjudicators (court registrars, judges) and prosecutors in accordance with the Law on the System of Common Courts and in accordance with the Law on the Public Prosecutor's Office. It is unacceptable for the government to disobey the law vis-à-vis citizens, in particular vis-à-vis professional groups which, on behalf of the state, ensure that the citizens of the Republic of Poland obey the law and ensure that the law is obeyed vis-à-vis citizens. Public authorities act on the basis and within the limits of the law, Article 7 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland", it concluded.