labourcourtsBL Premium reports that in a groundbreaking ruling, the Labour Appeal Court (LAC) has found that until the Labour Registrar first complies with relevant legislation, unions don’t need to hold a secret ballot before downing tools.  

The judgment, delivered earlier in June, effectively gives power back to union leaders to unilaterally decide on behalf of their members if and when they should down tools.   The Labour Relations Amendment Act (LRAA), which came into effect in January 2019, requires a secret ballot before unions embarked on strike.  The unions were given six months to amend their constitutions to include such a clause.  In March 2019, members of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) downed tools at Foskor and also at Mahle Behr SA.  The two employers approached the Labour Court (LC) where they successfully interdicted the industrial action, on the basis that Numsa did not hold a secret ballot before the strikes.  Numsa lodged an appeal over whether the LC’s interpretation of section 19 of the LRAA was correct.  That section required the labour registrar, within 180 days, to consult with the national office-bearers of unions that did not provide for recorded and secret ballots in their constitutions, about the most appropriate means to amend their constitution in order to comply.  The LAC found that “there is no evidence that the registrar consulted with the national office-bearers of Numsa and other trade unions and employers’ organisations or has issued a directive to them in accordance with section 19(1)(b) of the LRAA”.

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