The department of justice seems set on abolishing labour courts. That is the message from Cosatu over the Superior Courts Bill which is currently in parliament. According to Prakashnee Govender of Cosatu’s parliamentary office, the 2003 Bill forced labour to agree to the abolition of labour courts. In exchange, government said it would cater for specialisation for labour in the High Court system.
However, Govender claims that the new version of the Bill released last year, is silent on a specialist labour court. And yet other issues like land claims and competition are given their own courts. Cosatu argues that labour issues require specialist knowledge and cannot be handled by ordinary judges. Of equal concern to Cosatu is the change to the power that Nedlac currently has to appoint judges to the labour court.
An earlier agreement at Nedlac had said that a committee would be set up which would include Nedlac representatives. This committee would decide who amongst the existing judges could hear labour cases. However, last year’s version of the Bill lessens labour’s powers to influence. Government says that it is worried that giving different Nedlac groupings powers to decide on judges is “interfering with the independence of the judiciary” and is unconstitutional. However Govender disagrees. Labour is not deciding on who should be the judges in the High Court, it is just saying which judges of those already selected would be more suited to handling labour issues.
Cosatu has threatened to take the issue to the streets. Get report backs from your shop stewards. Watch Numsa News for details.