Article 86/2021

Labour Edge

To what extent is the practice manual of the labour court binding on all parties and the labour court?

  1. In Macsteel Trading Wadeville v Van der Merwe NO and Others [2019] 40 ILJ 798 (LAC), at paragraph [22], the labour appeal court held that:

‘The underlying objective of the Practice Manual is the promotion of the statutory imperative of expeditious dispute resolution. It enforces and gives effect to the Rules of the Labour Court and the provisions of the LRA. It is binding on the parties and the Labour Court. The Labour Court does, however, have a residual discretion to apply and interpret the provisions of the Practice Manual, depending on the facts and circumstances of a particular case before the court’.

  1. In Samuels v Old Mutual Bank [2017] 7 BLLR 681 (LAC), the labour appeal court held that:

‘[14]   The consolidated practice manual which came into operation on 2 April 2013 constitutes a series of directives issued by the Judge President over a period of time. Its purpose is, inter alia, to provide access to justice by all those whom the Labour Court serves; promote uniformity and/or consistency in practice and procedure and set guidelines on standards of conduct expected of those who practise and litigate in the Labour Court. Its objective is to improve the quality of the court’s service to the public, and promote the statutory imperative of expeditious dispute resolution.

[15]    The practice manual is not intended to change or amend the existing Rules of the Labour Court but to enforce and give effect to the Rules, the Labour Relations Act as well as various decisions of the courts on the matters addressed in the practice manual and the Rules. Its provisions therefore, are binding. The Labour Court’s discretion in interpreting and applying the provisions of the practice manual remains intact, depending on the facts and circumstances of a particular matter before the court.’

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.