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De Jure

On-line version ISSN 2225-7160
Print version ISSN 1466-3597

De Jure (Pretoria) vol.45 n.2 Pretoria  2012

 

ARTICLES

 

Can an employer still raise the retrenchment flag in interest negotiations? The Fry's Metals case under the Labour Relations Amendment Bill 2012

 

Kan 'n werkgewer nog die operationele-vereiste-ontslag-roete volg in onderhandelinge oor belangsdispute? Die Fry's Metals-saak onder die Wetsontwerp op Arbeidsverhoudinge 2012

 

 

Faan CoetzeeI; Retha BeermanII

IBA, LLB (NWU), LLM (UJ), H Dip Tax (Wits); Consultant Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr Inc
IIBLC (UP), LLB (UNISA), LLM (Michigan); Consultant Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr Inc

 

 


OPSOMMING

Artikel 187(1)(c) van die Wet op Arbeidsverhoudinge 55 van 1996 ("WAV") maak die sogenaamde uitsluitings-ontslag, in die loop van kollektiewe onderhandelinge, outomaties onbillik. Werknemers word egter alleenlik deur die huidige artikel 187(1)(c) beskerm, as die afdanking ten doel het om die werknemers te dwing om hul werkgewer se eis ten aansien van 'n aangeleentheid van gemeenskaplike belang te aanvaar, en as die afdanking bloot tydelik is.
Dit is dus huidig moontlik om finale diensbeëindigings teweeg te bring, vir operasionele redes (ingevolge artikel 189 of 189A van die WAV) as werknemers nie bereid is om toe te stem tot wysigings aan hulle diensvoorwaardes nie, mits die werkgewer substantiewe billikheid in die ontslag kan bewys, en solank die ontslag nie tydelike werking het nie.
Op 22 Maart 2012 het die Suid-Afrikaanse Kabinet sekere voorgestelde wysigings aan die WAV goedgekeur. Artikel 187(1)(c) sal, as die wetsontwerp in sy huidige vorm aanvaar word, die uitwerking hê dat enige ontslagte wat intree as gevolg van werknemers se weiering om toe te stem tot eise van hul werkgewers, ten aansien van aangeleenthede van gemeenskaplike belang, outomaties onbillik sal wees. Dit laat die vraag ontstaan hoe werkgewers artikel 189- en 189A-prosesse, waar moontlike veranderinge aan diensvoorwaardes voorgestel word as alternatief tot ontslag, moet benader, en of sodanige situasies noodwendig tot gevolg sal hê dat die werkgewer nie werknemers wat weier om die alternatief te aanvaar, mag ontslaan nie.
Die skrywers kom tot die slotsom dat artikel 187(1)(c) nie voorrang behoort te geniet bo artikels 189 en 189A nie, en dat dit eerder 'n feitevraag moet wees, wat in elke geval beantwoord moet word, gebaseer op die normale kousaliteitsbeginsels, of die oorwegende rede vir die afdankings gevind kan word in 'n poging deur die werkgewer om werknemers te dwing om 'n aanbod op 'n gemeenskaplike-belang-aangeleentheid te aanvaar, teenoor die vraag of die rede vir die afdanking as gevolg van bona fide operasionele-vereistes ontslag is.


 

 

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1 Other employment related rights guaranteed in s 23 Constitution include the right to fair labour practices, the right to form or join trade unions and employer organisations, to participate in the activities of such organisations, and for "workers" the right to strike.
2 66 of 1995.
3 Grogan Workplace Law (2009) 346-348; Van Niekerk et al Law @ Work (2008) 40-44.
4 Grogan 345. For purposes of this article we do not express a view regarding the appropriate demarcation between the terms "interest dispute", "rights dispute" and "mutual interest issue" for purposes of evaluating s 187(1)(c)'s effect.
5 Van Niekerk et al 388.
6 Not only would these types of dismissals be unfair, but it would amount to automatically unfair dismissals. Various authors have expressed doubt as to whether or not the so-called "lock-out dismissal" was really such pernicious conduct as to justify being made an automatically unfair dismissal. See Thompson "Bargaining over Business Imperatives: the Music of the Spheres after Fry's Metals" 27 ILJ2006 704 727;         [ Links ] Todd & Damant "Unfair Dismissal -Operational Requirements" 2004 ILJ 896 918-919;         [ Links ] Grogan "Chicken or Egg: Dismissals to Enforce Demands" 2003 19(2) Employment Law 4 8.
7 In terms of s 194(3) LRA the compensation awarded to an employee whose dismissal is automatically unfair must be just and equitable in all the circumstances, but not more than the equivalent of 24 months' remuneration calculated at the employee's rate of remuneration on the date of dismissal. In all other instances where an employee was unfairly dismissed, the maximum compensation that may be awarded is 12 months' compensation (s 194(1) LRA).
8 Grogan 2003 19(2) Employment Law 4 7, 11.
9 Thompson 727.
10 2003 ILJ 133 (LAC).
11 2005 ILJ 689 (SCA).
12 Reinstatement or re-employment is available as the primary remedy in the event of any substantively unfair dismissal, irrespective of whether the dismissal qualifies as automatically unfair (s 193(1) LRA).
13 Supra.
14 2003 ILJ1917 (LC).
15 Thompson 728.
16 Grogan 2003 Employment Law 411: "It seems somewhat strange that the legislature should have categorised conditional dismissals in the context of collective bargaining as automatically unfair, but excluded final dismissals occurring in the same context. It is also debatable whether the legislature intended to allow employers to terminate collective bargaining over employer-initiated proposals by finally and irrevocably dismissing the employees". See also Thompson 729.
17 Thompson 729-730.
18 Thompson 729-730.
19 Please note that this difficulty is by no means the only difficulty foreseen with clothing the proposed s 187(1)(c) LRA Bill with meaning, given that "mutual interest" issues go beyond matters properly falling within the collective bargaining arena, and it may therefore have unintended consequences within other disputes. Such other potential difficulties however do not fall within the purview of this article.
20 See Thompson 71 7-722 for examples of gray areas.
21 Grogan 2003 Employment Law 46.
22 Thompson: "Bargaining, Business Restructuring and the Operational Requirements Dismissal" (1999) 20 ILJ755 755-756.         [ Links ]
23 See for instance General Food Industries Ltd v FAWU 2004 ILJ1260 (LAC); Mazista Tiles (Pty) Ltd v NUM 2004 ILJ 2156 (LAC); Van Rooyen v Blue Financial Services (SA) (Pty) Ltd2010 ILJ2735 (LC).
24 1999 1LJ1718 (LAC) 1729F-1730A.
25 2000 ILJ 1347 (LC) 1351G-H.