Numsa enters new fields for membership
WHAT is the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), traditionally very active in the metal, engineering and steel industries, now doing in the food services industry? Some food for thought.
Numsa since its last national congress has been recruiting members in industries other than the metal, engineering and steel industries.
This, notwithstanding the fact that Numsa’s constitution limits membership to these industries and does not cover workers who are engaged in, for instance, the food services industry.
Numsa embarked upon strike action in the food services industry at a Bidvest establishment.
This prompted Bidvest to approach the Labour Court (Bidvest Food Services versus Numsa Case C946/2014 [judgment October 31, 2014]) to determine what Numsa was doing in this industry.
Workers may strike and they may lawfully demand that Numsa should get organisational rights in the food services industry.
Not surprisingly Bidvest tried to interdict the strike on the basis that the workers’ demand was unlawful as Numsa’s constitution prevents it from acquiring members and organisational rights in the food services industry.
The Labour Court, in deference to the constitutionally guaranteed right for every worker to strike, decided that the workers may strike and they may lawfully demand that Numsa should get organisational rights in the food services industry.
What is clear from this judgment is that “members” of Numsa in other industries may embark upon a protected strike to try and persuade their employer to enter into a recognition agreement with Numsa.
Numsa’s other option would have been to refer the matter to arbitration in terms of the provisions of the Labour Relations Act in order to acquire organisational rights. The court, with respect, correctly had serious doubts whether Numsa would have been able to acquire those rights through arbitration in view of the formulation of its constitution.
Employers nevertheless now face the prospect of finding Numsa on their doorstep no matter the industry in which they are engaged.
Until Numsa’s application to have its constitution amended to open membership up to any employee in any industry, it is unlikely that Numsa, through arbitration, will acquire organisational rights outside its currently registered scope. This probably will not deter Numsa from causing labour unrest in other industries. Faan Coetzee, is executive consultant, Employment practice, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr