Article 26/2022

In Gold Fields Mining SA (Pty) Ltd (Kloof Gold Mine) v CCMA and Others (2014) 24 SALLR 41 (LAC); (2014) 35 ILJ 943 (LAC); [2014] 1 BLLR 20 (LAC), the labour appeal court has also emphasised that picking away at threads of an arbitrator’s reasoning in a piecemeal fragmented fashion is not the correct way to approach a review. Although the court was referring to a review based on irregularities in the conduct of arbitration proceedings, it is apparent, from the passage cited below, that this principle is applicable to any review premised on grounds of unreasonableness:

‘[18] In a review conducted under s145(2)(a)(ii) of the LRA, the reviewing court is not required to take into account every factor individually, consider how the arbitrator treated and dealt with each of those factors and then determine whether a failure by the arbitrator to deal with one or some of the factors amounts to process related irregularity sufficient to set aside the award. This piecemeal approach of dealing with the arbitrator’s award is improper as the reviewing court must necessarily consider the totality of the evidence and then decide whether the decision made by the arbitrator is one that a reasonable decision maker could make.

[19] To do it differently or to evaluate every factor individually and independently is to defeat the very requirement set out in s138 of the LRA which requires the arbitrator to deal with the substantial merits of the dispute between the parties with the minimum of legal formalities and do so expeditiously and fairly. This is also confirmed in the decision of CUSA v Tao Ying Metal Industries.

[20] An application of the piecemeal approach would mean that an award is open to be set aside where an arbitrator (i) fails to mention a material fact in his or her award; or (ii) fails to deal in his/her award in some way with an issue which has some material bearing on the issue in dispute; and/or (iii) commits an error in respect of the evaluation or consideration of facts presented at the arbitration. The questions to ask are these: (i) In terms of his or her duty to deal with the matter with the minimum of legal formalities, did the process that the arbitrator employ give the parties a full opportunity to have their say in respect of the dispute? (ii) Did the arbitrator identify the dispute he or she was required to arbitrate? (This may in certain cases only become clear after both parties have led their evidence.) (iii) Did the arbitrator understand the nature of the dispute he or she was required to arbitrate? (iv) Did he or she deal with the substantial merits of the dispute? (v) Is the arbitrator’s decision one that another decision maker could reasonably have arrived at based on the evidence?

[21] Where the arbitrator fails to have regard to the material facts it is likely that he or she will fail to arrive at a reasonable decision. Where the arbitrator fails to follow proper process he or she may produce an unreasonable outcome (see Minister of Health and Another NO v New Clicks SA (Pty) Ltd and Others 2006 (2) SA 311 (CC)). But again, this is considered on the totality of the evidence not on a fragmented, piecemeal analysis. As soon as it is done in a piecemeal fashion, the evaluation of the decision arrived at by the arbitrator assumes the form of an appeal. A fragmented analysis rather than a broad based evaluation of the totality of the evidence defeats review as a process. It follows that the argument that the failure to have regard to material facts may potentially result in a wrong decision has no place in review applications. Failure to have regard to material facts must actually defeat the constitutional imperative that the award must be rational and reasonable — there is no room for conjecture and guesswork.’

What is the viewpoint of the labour appeal court, as expressed in SA Municipal Workers’ Union obo Morwe v Tswaing Local Municipality and Another [2023] 2 BLLR 131 (LAC); (2022) 33 SALLR 60 (LAC)?

An employer set out its employees’ rights in disciplinary hearings in the applicable disciplinary code and incorporated same into their employment contracts.

What are the options available to an employee when an employer allegedly owes such employee monies in terms of a contract of employment?