“Outsourcing is the main problem,” says a member of the technical support team of the courts in the State. The technical support staff working in the High Court and district courts are beginning to feel the pinch of being outsourced employees of the courts.

The technical support staff in the courts operate and maintain the hardware and software of systems used in the courts, train judges and the court staff to use the systems, and handle communication devices of the courts.

While some of the posts of system officers and assistants have been lying vacant for several months due to staff displeasure over low and erratic payment of salaries, those continuing in their jobs are facing an uncertain future.

They are currently employed by an agency to which the court outsourced the training and personnel management of the technical staff. “We convey our manpower needs to the agency and they suggest a few persons. A panel of experts from the courts interviews them and selects the best candidates for the post,” said Venu Karunakaran, Registrar of Recruitments and Computerisation of the High Court of Kerala.

The terms of recruitment, however, are set to change as the courts prepare to outsource the jobs to a fresh agency. System officers said the new company likely to take over their management had spoken to them unofficially and offered salaries lower than what they were being paid. “Most of us have more than two years experience. But we were told that we would be paid lesser than what we are getting now.

“When we protested, they said they could get other people for lesser pay,” said a member of the technical team. System officers who now get just around Rs.9,900 every month as take-home salary said that they were offered only Rs.9,500 a month. “Cleaning staff at the court are paid more than we do. But instead of a hike, we are being told that we will get a pay cut despite our experience and hard work,” he said.

Mr. Karunakaran admitted that the new agency would be free to pay the technical staff whatever they decided and could also decide to keep or fire the old agency’s employees.

The money to be paid to the new agency, however, has already been decided by the High Court. The High Court obtained Rs.1.02 crore from the government towards employing technical support in the State for the next year.

The court, in its letter to the government, had mentioned that the calculation of the amount was based on a projected salary of Rs.28,900 per month for a senior system officer, Rs.19,300 for system officers and Rs.17,200 for system assistants.

While the government has sanctioned the amount to be paid to the new agency, the minimum pay for technical staff has not been fixed. This leaves the outsourced company with the freedom to pay their employees what they like and pocket the rest as agency’s charges.