Article 50/2021

Labour Edge

Is an incorrect interpretation of the law a material error of law resulting in both an incorrect and unreasonable award?


  1. In National Union of Metalworkers of SA v Assign Services and Others (2017) 38 ILJ 1978 (LAC); [2017] 10 BLLR 1008 (LAC); (2017) 28 SALLR 15 (LAC), at paragraph [32], the labour appeal court said:

‘An incorrect interpretation of the law by a commissioner is, logically, a material error of law which will result in both an incorrect and unreasonable award. Such an award can either be attacked on the basis of its correctness or for being unreasonable’ (the judgment of the labour appeal court was upheld by the constitutional court in Assign Services (Pty) Ltd v National Union of Metalworkers of SA and Others (Casual Workers Advice Office as Amicus Curiae) (2018) 39 ILJ 1911 (CC). See also with regard to this principle the judgments in Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA on behalf of Du Toit and Another v Western Cape Department of Health and Others (2016) 37 ILJ 1819 (LAC), at paragraphs [21]–[22]; MacDonald’s Transport Upington (Pty) Ltd v Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and Others (2016) 37 ILJ 2593 (LAC); [2017] 2 BLLR 105 (LAC), at paragraph [30]).

  1. As succinctly summarised in Auto Industrial Group (Pty) Ltd and Others v Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and Others (2019) 40 ILJ 550 (LC), at paragraph [31]:

‘There is a line of judgments by the LAC that establish that an arbitration award may be set aside as constituting a gross irregularity when a commissioner commits an error of law, provided the error of law was material, in the sense that it materially affected the commissioner’s ultimate decision. Put in the negative, an error of law is not material if the commissioner would have reached the same decision on the facts, despite the error of law.’

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)?