NUMSA mounts epic legal wrangles, scoring more than R4-million.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) has set the scene for

marathon legal battles, after winning more than R4-million in dismissals lawsuits.

NUMSA has launched its operation “Mababuyiselwe” (reinstatement) campaign and won

more than R1, 8 million compensation on behalf of 29 members. The workers were

unlawfully dismissed for allegedly participating in an unprotected strike.

The Johannesburg Labour Court has ordered MM&G Engineering to reinstate and pay

dismissed employees for a period of twelve months, effective from the day of their

dismissals on April 19, 2000.

Dismissed workers were informed of their dismissals while they were busy conducting

their normal duties. They had responded to a second ultimatum issued by management to

resume their duties after engaging briefly in work stoppages. Workers had embarked on

a protest action to demand a day’s wage for being stopped from reporting at work on “a

stocktaking day”.

But, the enquiry chairperson Gerhard van Rensberg, accepted claims by another union,

the National Employees Trade Union (NETU) that its members who similarly

participated in the unlawful strike had been coerced and intimidated by NUMSA

members. He further concluded that they were unwilling participants and that they did

not initiate the unprocedural strike.

NUMSA members were asked to “leave or participate in the enquiry at their own peril”

because their representative who earlier asked for a postponement was not available. The

Labour Appeal Court also dismissed the company’s application for condonation with

costs.

Booysen Mashego, national head of NUMSA legal unit yesterday lambasted rampant

employers who remained stuck in the “old order and for their intransigent and myopic

approach” to labour legislation.

“Most employers, to this day still refuse to comply with arbitration awards issued by

CCMA commissioners and instead seek court reviews. But, they have been proven wrong

by the Labour Court and the Appeal Courts,” he said.

In another development Goodyear tyre manufacturer was also ordered to pay Themba

Makhubalo about R510 000 for unlawful dismissal. Makhubalo was employed at

Goodyear for more than 20 years.

He was fired in December 1999 for allegedly reporting on duty drunk. NUMSA referred

the dismissal to the CCMA protesting that he was not treated fairly since he was

summoned to work a morning shift instead of his normal night shift duty.

Makhubalo obtained a reinstatement order, but the company took the CCMA ruling on a

review and later on appeal after the Labour Court had refused to interfere with the

CCMA order.

In an earlier judgment handed down by three Labour Appeal Court Judges accepted

NUMSA’s contention that each case must be decided on its own merits and that it is

unfair to have dismissed Makhubalo in the circumstances of the case.

The Supreme Court of Appeal has also ordered Goodyear to pay the legal costs and

refused to consider the appeal, saying five judges had earlier felt that there were no

special circumstances to allow the company to take the case further to the Court of

Appeals again.

An arbitration award amounting to R430 000 was given to 57 former employees

dismissed by the engineering company Kromberg & Schubert Brits. The dismissed

workers were forced to leave the company after a strike in May last year.

Meanwhile, a Sandton Engineering was also ordered to pay dismissed employees more

than R500 000 after it lost a review in the Johannesburg Labour Court. The review

application was dismissed with legal costs. This followed an unprocedural strike in

December 2003.

About 58 workers, in the latest development, at Mandlakazi Pullins engineering firm

were also awarded more than R500 000 compensation for unfair dismissal following a

strike.

NUMSA is committed to defend all the old cases of unfair dismissals even though legal

costs were running into millions in line with “operation mababuyiselwe” campaign.

Mashego also pointed out that the campaign is aimed at using the opportunity to show

that under the liberated labour legislation, employers can no longer “fire and hire as it

pleases them”.

Mziwakhe Hlangani

NUMSA national information officer

Cell: 0837293374

E-mail address: mziwakheh@numsa.org.za

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