Home News SACTWU wins case that could have dismantled the NBC
SACTWU wins case that could have dismantled the NBC PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 March 2012 17:23

On 29 February 2012, the Labour Court ruled in favour of SACTWU and the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Industry in a case that sought to dismantle the Bargaining Council system. This was the second such attempt by Western Cape manufacturers Sgt Pepper's Knitwear and Abbey Road Fashions to shut down the NBC.

In the first attempt, the Labour Court dismissed the case because Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road did not have the right bring the specific matter to the Labour Court. In this second attempt, the companies tried to be clever by relying on a constitutional argument to give them the right to bring this matter to Court.

The argument brought by the two companies had three legs, one resting on the other: (1) SACTWU is not an independent trade union because it controls a major clothing manufacturer, Seardel; (2) SACTWU therefore sits on both sides of the Bargaining Council, by being both the sole representative of labour and a major employer; so because of that (3) the NBC is not a true or genuine Bargaining Council, and its Main Agreement and compliance orders are invalid and without legal force.  In this way, the two companies sought to dismantle our Bargaining Council system.

These legs of argument failed. The Labour Court said that if the constitutional argument was accepted and that Sgt Pepper and Abbey road had the right to bring the matter to the labour court, they would fail anyway on the first leg of their argument.  This is so because the companies did not demonstrate that SACTWU was not an independent trade union. Section 95(2) of the LRA defines an independent trade union along two bases: as one that is “not under the direct or indirect control of any employer or employers organisation” or “free of any interference or influence of any kind from any employer or employers’ organisation”. The companies did not argue any of these two bases. What they did argue was that an employer is controlled by trade union, but that has nothing to do with the independence of the trade unions according to the LRA. Because of this failure on the first leg, the other two legs had no basis, so the entire case fell apart. It would have fallen apart even if they had the constitutional right to bring the matter to court.

Like in the first case, the Labour Court slapped the two companies with an order to pay SACTWU’s and the NBC’s costs of the suite.