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Case Law: Employees from unrecognised unions in the workplace

by , 02 December 2015
In the following case, a number of a union members were issued with final written warnings, by their employer, for wearing T-shirts of an unrecognised union.

Read on to see what happened...

CASE: National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa / Transnet Soc Ltd. [2015] 11 BALR 1118 (TBC)

The applicant, namely the union involved, said this was an unfair labour practice. In other words, it believed that banning the T-shirts from unrecognised unions, didn't make sense and was, in essence, unjustified.

The employer, gave out a memorandum (a note for future use), stating clearly that members of unrecognised trade unions weren't allowed to wear their apparel. In other words, they couldn't wear the colours of unrecognised unions in the workplace.

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What's more, the employees were given stern warnings, saying if they did wear the colours of unrecognised trade unions, they'd receive disciplinary action.

The Commissioner noted that the employees involved had already received two written warnings, both for ignoring the memorandum's rule.

The Commissioner went on to say that this rule was based on sound reasoning, in that, based on experience, union rivalry could be borne in the workplace, creating a work environment which can hinder overall production.

It was further stated that the employer was allowed to apply rules which promoted harmony within the work environment.

Only recognised unions hold organisational rights, and so they had earned the rights for their members to wear apparel which represented them.

The result of this case was that the union couldn't prove the employer's behaviour was unfair, and so the case was dismissed.

What can you learn from this case?

1.      You, as the employer, are entitled to promote and ensure a harmonious work environment; and that
2.      Unrecognised unions don't hold the same organisational rights as recognised ones, and that you can enforce this fact if need be.

Fact: The CCMA doesn't care why you dismissed an employee... It only wants to know if you dismissed him fairly
And if you didn't do it fairly, you could have to pay him up to 12 months' salary! Don't let this happen to you…

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