Numsa Legal Department

Numsa legal department
By Prudence Gqoba

Since 2009 the Numsa legal department, under the leadership of our deputy general secretary, Karl Cloete, has been working on a turn-around strategy that will make the department more effective and give members a high-quality and efficient service. And there have been improvements.

The department improved not only in terms of the tools of the legal profession, but also in the education of its legal officers. All legal departments in the nine Numsa regions now have their own fax machines.

This was done to ensure that members’ important legal papers do not go missing and that the court dates received from the bargaining council and the CCMA do not get lost, which in the past has resulted in members’ cases not being attended to.

The department has embarked on a campaign to ensure that it retains the best legal officers, people who know labour law and fight for member’s rights at all legal institutions.

Our legal officers are educated on different subjects every year to ensure that they have the law at their fingertips. As a result, we have had victories at both the bargaining council and Labour Court.

We might still have some slip-ups, but we are working hard so that these are dealt with as urgently as possible.

Each region has a trained regional legal officer (RLO) who is helped by a regional legal administrator (RLA). All our RLOs, since 2009, have been dealing with arbitrations and the Labour Court.

This is a great improvement, as RLOs are learning to draft legal papers for the Labour Court. This prepares our RLO to be able to work in head office; whenever there is a vacancy at head office they can apply it.

To further ensure an excellent service to our members we have a panel of attorneys and liquidators who are available to us for advice and to help the department with other matters.

The staff complement in the head office legal department has increased to ensure better service to our members. There are six national legal officers, who appear at the Labour Court and help RLOs with arbitrations when needed.

The NLOs are well qualified and regularly attend workshops to keep abreast of legal issues as the law changes, both through Acts of Parliament nd court decisions.

The members of the national legal office are Alfred Motane, Norma Craven, Solly Montshioa, Tumiso Manasoe, Ellen Chinnasamy, Prudence Gqoba and Sarah Kuane, the national legal administrator.

All our legal officers from region to head office level are accessible to our members to render a service to them at any time. Members can just pick up the phone and call for help, alternatively they can come to any Numsa office for assistance.

At a regional level the legal officers are JC Bezuidenhout, acting RLO Godfrey Makita, and regional legal administrator Magdiline Mahlangu. In the Northern Cape they are Elias Mashiloane and Conny Molatlhoe, the regional legal administrator; in Ekurhuleni the acting RLO is Express Mtshali and the regional administrator is Sibongile Nkosi; in Hlanganani Cyril Luthuli is holding the fort, as the position of regional legal administrator is vacant; in Sedibeng the officers are Vuyisile Mphetsheni and Paulina Mohale, the regional legal administrator; in Mpumalanga they are Justice Masutha and regional legal administrator Tshidi Matsimela; in Kwazulu-Natal they are Njabulo Mcube and regional legal administrator Nokwazi Mgoduka; in the Eastern Cape they are Ronnie Mgubasi and regional legal administrator Gairo Fataar; and in the Western Cape Mohammed Vallie-Ismail and regional legal officer Anthea Kelly.

The department in all regions has a full staff complement. In some regions, such as KwaZulu-Natal and Ekurhuleni, legal organisers deal with arbitrations.

In Ekurhuleni there are two regional legal organisers, Maria Bogatho and Thuso Nqubane, while in KwaZulu-Natal Abner Khumalo and Thandiwe Hlatshwayo are part of the department and conduct arbitrations for the regions.

Numsa general secretary Karl Cloete DGS has also ensured that all the required equipment, such as fax/copy machines, are puarchased for the exclusive use of the department and that the offices (in most regions) are conducive to legal work.

This is to ensure that all important correspondence, such as confidential documents from courts, companies, bargaining councils and attorneys, is not lost or mixed up with other departments’ correspondence. We are also working towards acquiring a tracking system that will ensure that all members’ cases can be traced from local to regional level.

The turn-around strategy for the department is slowly bearing fruit; although there are still hiccups.

Bargaining council rules
Alfred Motane, a national legal officer who sits in the bargaining council, made a presentation to the national legal strategic meeting in October 2012 on the rules that the bargaining council intends to introduce.
Some of the rules will be very helpful for workers, while others may hinder the bargaining council.

The purpose of the new rules is for employees to have easy access to both the council and the CCMA without legal complications.
Some of the rules should not be implemented because an ordinary worker who does not have money will be prejudiced.

Planned rule changes
The service of notice for a conciliation/arbitration will now be made electronically as well, using SMSs, as many people have no postal addresses. Quite a number of matters are dismissed because people do not receive notice of when it is set down. This rule has now being incorporated into the rules of the bargaining council. It is in addition to the other ways of serving notice.

Once a conciliation fails, the next step of arbitration is automatic. Parties do not have to fill in the LRA 7.13 form – the matter is automatically referred to arbitration.

Rule 21 reads:
“The parties to arbitration must hold a pre-arbitration conference dealing with the matters referred to in sub-rule (2), if directed by the director or a managing commissioner”

The meeting suggested that this section should read as follows:
“The parties to arbitration may hold a pre-arbitration conference dealing with matters referred to in sub-rule (2).”

Should rule 21 be implemented – the employers are happy with it – it means that there must be education on pre-arbitration conferences and minutes taken for local organisers and everyone in the union who deals with such cases.

It was also noted that this may cause a problem for workers who are not union members, as it is legalistic and not as simple as the forums were intended to be. The rules are still being discussed and have not been implemented.