The Industrial Relations Court (IRC) is established under section 110 of the Republic of Malawi Constitution. The jurisdiction, composition and structure of this court is provided for in the Labour Relations Act. The IRC has original jurisdiction over labour disputes and other issues relating to employment. It registers cases that are within its jurisdiction in terms of nature of the claim, that is, it must be a labour dispute involving any person other than a police officer, prison officer or army officer. The matter must be brought through referral from the Ministry of Labour where it must have been registered within the prescribed time limit.
The IRC has three registries: Principal Registry in Blantyre, Lilongwe Registry, and Mzuzu Registry. The authorised establishment for the court is fifty-nine members of staff of whom seven are judicial officers and fifty-two are support staff. During the year under review, the IRC had four judicial officers serving as Chairperson and as Deputy Chairpersons having the mandate to hear and determine disputes at the court. The Chairperson and one Deputy Chairperson attended to matters at the Principal Registry and eight circuit registries in the Eastern and Southern Region and the two Deputy Chairpersons attended to the two main registries and ten circuit registries in Lilongwe and Mzuzu. The other two being Registrars mainly have administrative functions.
It is sad to note that the IRC could not effectively sit and determine cases between March and April 2010 due to the unavailability of court panellists.