Article 39/2021

Labour Edge

What determines the test to be used on review – correctness standard or reasonable decision-maker?

In Jonsson Uniform Solutions (Pty) Ltd v Brown and Others (DA10/2012) [2014] ZALCJHB 32 (13 February 2014) [2014] JOL 32513, at paragraphs 33–36, where the labour appeal court held as follows;

‘[33]   The generally accepted view is that we have a bifurcated review standard viz reasonableness and correctness. The test for the reasonableness of a decision was stated in Sidumo and Another v Rustenburg Platinum Mines Ltd and Others as follows: “Is the decision reached by the commissioner one that a reasonable decision-maker could not reach?”

[34]    In assessing whether the CCMA or the Bargaining Council had jurisdiction to adjudicate a dispute, the correctness test should be applied. The court of review will analyse the objective facts to determine whether the CCMA or Bargaining Council had the necessary jurisdiction to entertain the dispute. See SARPA v SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd and Others; SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd v SARPU.

[35]    The issues in dispute will determine whether the one or the other of the review tests is harnessed in order to resolve the dispute.  In matters where the factual finding of an arbitrator is challenged on review, the reasonable decision-maker standard should be applied. Where the legal or jurisdictional findings of the arbitrator are challenged the correctness standard should be applied. There will, however, be situations where the legal issues are inextricably linked to the facts so that the reasonable decision-maker standard could be applied.

[36]    It is therefore important to determine whether the dispute, between the parties, is a jurisdictional one or not. The dispute to be resolved determines the test to be applied. In this matter, the dispute between the parties was whether there was in fact a dismissal. If there was no dismissal the Bargaining Council would not have jurisdiction. If there was a dismissal the Bargaining Council would have jurisdiction. The existence or otherwise of a dismissal is therefore a jurisdictional issue. The correctness standard and not the reasonableness standard should therefore be applied. The court a quo, as both parties agreed, applied the wrong standard.’

Often employment contracts contain a clause to the effect that the agreement is the sole record of the terms existing between the parties and that any variation or amendment thereof will only be valid if reduced to writing and signed by both parties.

When appearing in the labour court in motion proceedings and there are material disputes of fact, should the matter be referred for oral evidence?

Motion proceedings (including applications in terms of rule 31 of the CCMA rules) are not designed to resolve disputes of fact, but indeed disputes of law.