Article 24/2021

Labour Edge

Under which circumstances will insubordination justify dismissal?


The labour appeal court recently, in Maripane v Glencore Operations SA (Pty) Ltd (Lion Ferrochrome) (2019) 30 SALLR 163 (LAC), adopted the following approach:

  1. there was an onus on the respondent to show that the dismissal, which was common cause, had been fair. This would have included showing, on a balance of probabilities, that the appellant had been guilty of the misconduct with which he had been charged and for which he had been dismissed. To justify dismissal, the insubordination had to be gross, meaning that the insubordination ‘must be serious, persistent and deliberate’; and
  2. whether the refusal to obey an instruction amounts to insubordination also depends on various factors, including the employee’s conduct before the alleged insubordination, the wilfulness of the employee’s refusal to obey, and the reasonableness of the instruction (Workplace Law (above) at 175 and the cases cited therein fn. 125). The reasonableness of any instruction also depends on its lawfulness and enforceability (see Mlaba v Masonite (Africa) Ltd and Others [1998] 3 BLLR 291 (LC) at 296I-297G and SACCAWU and Others v Mahawane Country Club [2002] 1 BLLR 20 (LAC) at paragraph [7]). It seems axiomatic, that any instruction to do what is unlawful, or in breach of a contractual term is not reasonable.

In Minister of Police v M and Others (2016) 27 SALLR 53 (LC); (2017) 38 ILJ 402 (LC), the labour court identified the content of hearsay evidence of a special type affording greater weight than simple hearsay.  What is the approach adopted by the labour court in such case as to the transcript of an internal enquiry admitted as hearsay evidence in terms of s3(1)(c) of the Law of Evidence Amendment Act?  Subsequent to such judgment, the labour court, in Department of Home Affairs v General Public Service Sector Bargaining Council and Others (2019) 30 SALLR 172 (LC); (2019) 40 ILJ 2544 (LC), had the opportunity to apply the approach adopted in the aforesaid judgment to the specific facts of this matter.  In this subsequent judgment, how did the labour court identify such transcript of an internal enquiry as not constituting hearsay of a special type (as required in Minister of Police v M (supra))?

According to the constitutional court, when a referral is made to the CCMA or a bargaining council concerning a dismissal, is it a requirement that the reason for the dismissal (i.e. misconduct, incapacity poor work performance, etc) is also identified in order for such CCMA or bargaining council to require the requisite jurisdiction?

What are the principles governing hearsay evidence as contained in the Law of Evidence Amendment Act 45 of 1998 and applied by the labour court in, inter alia, Swiss South Africa (Pty) Ltd v Louw NO [2006] 4 BLLR 373 (LC) and NUMSA v SA Metal & Engineering Industries Bargaining Council and Others (2014) 25 SALLR 4 (LC)?