This follows a long legal battle with the company. The Supreme Court of Appeals has just pronounced on the matter. It is a precedent setting judgment in favour of all South African workers. The further details are as follows:
When the workers were placed on short time a few years ago, SACTWU referred a dispute for a claim for unpaid wages for the period of the short time because, in our contention, the workers were placed on short time illegally.
The matter then had to be arbitrated at clothing bargaining council level. Junit Manufacturing was of the view that the Clothing Industry Bargaining Council did not have jurisdiction to hear this dispute.
The arbitrator ruled that the matter could be heard by the bargaining council, as the dispute was related to wages which could be applicable to the main agreement and it was further found that the employees had to be paid wages from 12 January 2006-10 February 2006 as (in terms of the arbitrators ruling), they had indeed been placed on unfair and illegal short time.
The arbitration award was then taken on review by the employer. The review was successful. The impact of the Judge’s decision was, in our view, declaring that the Bargaining Council would not have jurisdiction to arbitrate short time disputes, which would have had far reaching consequences for workers in the clothing industry. It meant a serious watering down of the powers of bargaining councils in general.
As such the matter had to be taken on appeal. SACTWU appealed the matter and have now won. The relief is that these 58 workers will now receive their 3 weeks’ back pay with interest, but the important precedent setting consequence of this matter is that short time disputes can now be referred to the Bargaining Council.
This Supreme Court of Appeals judgment therefore strengthens the powers and jurisdiction of all bargaining councils to deal with short time disputes. It is a big blow for employers and organisations such as the Free Market Foundation who are intent on weakening bargaining councils.
Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union
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