Article 80/2021

Labour Edge

In respect of an order of reinstatement, what is the nature of the claim calculated from the day of the order granting reinstatement to the end of the judicial process challenging such order?

In respect of the so-called ‘second period’, calculated from the day after the judgment granting such order to the outcome of the judicial process challenging such order, the labour court recently, in Kubeka and Others v Ni-Da Transport (Pty) Ltd (2019) 30 SALLR 178 (LC), adopted the following approach:

  1. the court, in National Union of Metalworkers of SA obo Fohlisa and Others v Hendor Mining Supplies (2017) 38 ILJ 1560 (CC), had been evenly split on whether the debt incurred in respect of the second period had not perhaps been a contract debt. Madlanga J had viewed it as an artificial line to draw but Zondo DCJ, writing the second judgment, had found that, after the noting of an appeal, and until all appeals were exhausted, the portion of back pay occasioned by such a delay constituted a contractual debt. One of Madlanga J’s criticisms of this approach of Zondo DCJ was that it carved up the period during which there was non-compliance with the labour court’s order into separate periods that gave rise to different legal consequences;
  2. the ability to generate separate legal consequences, with respect, recommended the approach of Zondo DCJ to the labour court in casu. Accepting that an order in respect of the first period did not sound in money, could it not perhaps be that back pay associated with the second period, as a quantifiable contractual debt, did?;
  3. it is important to record that this matter was not about whether the applicants had been, at a colloquial level, entitled to the full amount of back pay for both the first and second periods. They plainly had been. However, the respondent had taken the point that the applicants had erred in not using the correct legal process to achieve the outcome which, barring the liquidation of the respondent, had otherwise been theirs for the taking. The labour court had considered whether, if, in terms of the second judgment in Hendor, claims for arrear wages for the second period were contractual debts, these amounts could not be claimed under s77(3) of the BCEA; and
  4. if one scanned Zondo DCJ’s views in the second judgment more widely, however, it appeared to him that contractual debts in respect of the second period only became due after the employer had reinstated the dismissed employees; and
  5. the labour court believed that there was simply no way of getting around the fact that the applicants had used the wrong process to obtain the relief they sought.

With reference to Potgieter v Samancor Chrome Ltd t/a Tubatse Ferrochrome (2022) 33 SALLR 190 (LC) and Van Rensburg and Others v Department of Justice and Correctional Services and Others (2022) 33 SALLR 280 (LC); (2022) 43 ILJ 2110 (LC).

In what instances does the jurisdiction of the supreme court of appeal trump the jurisdiction of the labour appeal court?

Where an employer prematurely terminates a fixed-term contract and the employee challenges such termination as being unlawful and claims damages and not specific performance, the labour court has up to now ordered damages even though same is an unliquidated claim for damages.