There are mushrooming legal bodies who claim that they can defend workers' rights. For R31 per month, workers are promised to be legally protected. But when it comes to delivering the goods, often these organisations are found wanting.
One worker and Numsa member in Germiston Local was dismissed by Company X. He came to the local office to report the matter. The Union declared a dispute in terms of Section 191 of the LRA and we told the worker that we would inform him about the dates of the case.
On the same day, the worker went to the legal body that he had also joined, to report the matter and it also declared a dispute in terms of the same section. The Bargaining Council scheduled the same time, dates and commissioner for both
Numsa and the legal body to represent the member. The Commissioner decided to postpone the conciliation. But before he did that, he requested the worker to decide who must represent him – Numsa or the legal body. When the worker came to our Local to give us a report of his case, we realised that he had been misled by this legal institution.
We managed to convince the member to let us take up his case. These people from the legal institutions don't build the case from the company level like we do. As shop stewards we can challenge the fairness and unfairness of the issue at plant level, before it gets to the Bargaining Council.
I put the legal body on the spot by asking them these questions. This is how they responded:
Do you work like the trade union movement?
No. The trade unions are no longer existing since the departure of cde Mbhazima to the Premier's position.
Where was your legal body when trade union leaders were arrested while they were trying to unite workers to fight the oppression? What role did they play to save those workers like they are doing today?
We cannot answer those questions because we are here to recruit members. If you are dismissed, you can pick up the phone and our seniors will help you and phone your employer.
How do you take up the case of your client to the CCMA?
I don't know, only the senior knows better.
Are you aware that in terms of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) Act 66 of 1995 as amended, in some proceedings at the CCMA level, your legal body is not allowed?
I don't know anything about the proceedings of the CCMA.
Why then do you recruit people to get legal protection against unfair dismissal, unfair labour practice while you don't know the Act?
I am only an agent employed to recruit people to join.
Be careful when you join these legal bodies. Make sure you know what they can and cannot do for you.
Legal bodies cannot represent you:
inside your company on grievance and disciplinary matters including unfair dismissal. Only your trade union representative can be there. at conciliation and arbitration of your unfair dismissal case in terms of section 138 sub-section 4(a) of the LRA, 1995 as amended on collective bargaining issues in terms of Chapter 3, section 11 up to section 63 like bargaining wages and working conditions at company level.