Numsa en­ters new fields for mem­ber­ship

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - Faan Coet­zee

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

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