Article 01/2021

Labour Edge

There is a misconception that the labour court has jurisdiction to entertain any disputes concerning work-related grievances, or to deal with any allegations of unfair conduct by an employer.  How did Van Niekerk J deal with this issue in Malinga and Others v KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Department of Education and Others (2020) 31 SALLR 101 (LC)?


  1. There is a common misconception, especially in relation to urgent applications, that this court has jurisdiction to entertain any dispute that concerns a work-related grievance, or to deal with any allegations of unfair conduct by an employer. This is not the case,
  2. Section 157(1) of the LRA provides:

‘Subject to the Constitution and section 173, and except where this Act provides otherwise, the Labour Court has exclusive jurisdiction in respect of all matters that elsewhere in terms of this Act or in terms of any other law are to be determined by the Labour Court.’

  1. Section 157(2) reads as follows:

‘The Labour Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the High Court in respect of any alleged or threatened violation of any fundamental right entrenched in chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, and arising from –

(a)     employment and from labour relations;

(b)     any dispute over the constitutionality of any executive or administrative act or conduct, or any threatened executive or administrative act or conduct, by the State in its capacity as an employer; and

(c)      the application of any law for the administration of which the Minister is responsible.’

  1. The labour court is a superior court that has authority, inherent powers and standing equal to those of a division of the high court, but only in relation to matters under its jurisdiction (s151(2)). The scope of the court’s exclusive and concurrent jurisdiction is to be determined by reference to s157. It is self-evident that s157 does not confer jurisdiction on the labour court to make orders regarding all and any employer conduct that is alleged to be unfair.

What are the five differences between a claim in terms of the LRA and the BCEA, recently identified by the labour appeal court, in Pilanesberg Platinum Mines (Pty) Ltd v Ramabulana (2019) 30 SALLR 165 (LAC)?

A claim in the labour court is for the payment of damages arising from a breach of contract, whereas a claim before the CCMA or the bargaining council is for reinstatement, alternatively, compensation. How did the labour appeal court recently, in Archer v Public School – Pinelands High School and Others, deal with these two different claims?

A claimant has a potential claim for enforcement of an LRA right (enforceable only in a labour forum) as well as a potential claim for enforcement of a right falling outside the LRA (enforceable either in the high court or labour court).  These claims can be pursued simultaneously or sequentially.  What is the basis of such approach, recently confirmed by the labour appeal court in Archer v Public School – Pinelands High School and Others (2019) 30 SALLR 28 (LAC)?