Article 29/2021

Labour Edge

What is the content of the two-stage enquiry to be adopted when considering a review application of an arbitration award?


  1. In Sidumo and Another v Rustenburg Platinum Mines Ltd and Others 2008 (2) SA 24 (CC); (2007) 28 ILJ 2405 (CC); [2007] 12 BLLR 1097 (CC); (2008) 19 SALLR 35 (CC), the constitutional court held that ‘the reasonableness standard should now suffuse s145 of the LRA’, and that the threshold test for the reasonableness of an award was:

‘…Is the decision reached by the commissioner one that a reasonable decision-maker could not reach?… (see also CUSA v Tao Ying Metal Industries and Others (2008) 29 ILJ 2461 (CC), at paragraph [134]; Fidelity Cash Management Service v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and Others (2008) 29 ILJ 964 (LAC); [2008] 3 BLLR 197 (LAC), at paragraph [96]).

  1. In Herholdt v Nedbank Ltd and Another 2013 (6) SA 224 (SCA); 2013 (34) ILJ 2795 (SCA); 2013 (11) BLLR 1074 (SCA), at paragraph [25], the supreme court of appeal applied this reasonableness consideration as follows:

‘…A result will only be unreasonable if it is one that a reasonable arbitrator could not reach on all the material that was before the arbitrator. Material errors of fact, as well as the weight and relevance to be attached to the particular facts, are not in and of themselves sufficient for an award to be set aside, but are only of consequence if their effect is to render the outcome unreasonable’ (see also Gold Fields Mining South Africa (Pty) Ltd (Kloof Gold Mine) v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and Others (2014) 35 ILJ 943 (LAC); [2014] 1 BLLR 20 (LAC), at paragraph [14]; Monare v SA Tourism and Others (2016) 37 ILJ 394 (LAC), at paragraph [59]; Quest Flexible Staffing Solutions (Pty) Ltd (A Division of Adcorp Fulfilment Services (Pty) Ltd) v Legobate (2015) 36 ILJ 968 (LAC), at paragraphs [15]–[17]; National Union of Mineworkers and Another v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and Others (2015) 36 ILJ 2038 (LAC), at paragraph [16]).

  1. This meant a two-stage review enquiry. Firstly, the review applicant had to establish that there existed a failure or error on the part of the arbitrator. If this could not be shown to exist, that would be the end of the matter. Secondly, if this failure or error was shown to exist, the review applicant had then to further show that the outcome arrived at by the arbitrator had been unreasonable. If the outcome arrived at was, nonetheless, reasonable, despite the error or failure, that would equally be the end of the review application. In short, in order for the review to succeed, the error or failure had to affect the reasonableness of the outcome to the extent of rendering it unreasonable.
  2. Further, the reasonableness consideration envisaged a determination, based on all the evidence and issues before the arbitrator, as to whether the outcome the arbitrator arrived at could, nonetheless, be sustained as a reasonable outcome, even if it might be for different reasons or on different grounds. This necessitated a consideration by the review court of the entire record of the proceedings before the arbitrator, as well as the issues raised by the parties before the arbitrator, with the view to establishing whether this material could, or could not, sustain the outcome arrived at by the arbitrator.
  3. In the end, it would only be if the outcome arrived at by the arbitrator could not be sustained on any grounds, based on that material, and the irregularity, failure or error concerned was the only basis to sustain the outcome the arbitrator arrived at, that the review application would succeed (see Campbell Scientific Africa (Pty) Ltd v Simmers and Others (2016) 37 ILJ 116 (LAC), at paragraph [32]; Anglo Platinum (Pty) Ltd (Bafokeng Rasemone Mine) v De Beer and Others (2015) 36 ILJ 1453 (LAC), at paragraph [12]).

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)?