Appeal ruling: Oliphant actions unjust
LABOUR Minister Mildred Oliphant has been left red-faced yet again after the Labour Appeal Court in Joburg instructed her to reinstate Johan Crouse as labour registrar.
In its judgment yesterday, the court found the minister had acted unfairly and unlawfully when she moved Crouse to an old position in 2015 following a disagreement over his attempt to de-register a non-compliant Cosatu union.
The court said Oliphant failed to apply her mind in a fair and objective manner when she removed Crouse from the critical role that, among other functions, required he kept unions and union leaders in check.
The minister had initially argued that her reason to remove Crouse as registrar stemmed from a classic case of insubordination.
She accused him of neglecting to inform her that he had placed the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers Union (Ceppwawu) under administration after it failed to submit audited financial statements for a period of five years.
But in the judgment, the three appeal judges presiding over the matter said Oliphant’s stance and rationale behind reversing Crouse’s role were baseless.
They said that, in accordance with the Labour Relations Act, Crouse had no obligation or duty to brief Oliphant as he was exercising his functions as prescribed in his role.
“The registrar nevertheless was found to have adequately briefed the minister. The reversal of his designation is confirmed to have been irrational, invalid and procedurally unfair,” the judgment stated.
They recommended that Crouse be reinstated, saying this was the ultimate remedy to the long-lasting stand-off between the two parties.
Despite the long-awaited court victory, Crouse was still doubtful that he has reached the end of his battle with the minister.
“I am delighted but a bit sceptical. I don’t know what their (Labour Department’s) next move is. I find myself constantly having to look behind my back to see what they will throw at me,” he said.
Crouse added that while he had only a few months left before his retirement, he wasn’t certain that he would be returning to work anytime soon.
“I think that I still have a lot to contribute if I were to go back. However, I don’t think they are prepared to let this whole thing go. They’ll still fight it.
“What further saddens me is that this whole court battle has become an intimidation tactic. At least I am retiring at the end of October. What about the young ones who are left behind and cannot stand up against the abuse?” he asked.
The Federation of Unions of South Africa has welcomed the court’s decision.
General secretary Dennis George said this was a signal that Oliphant has no jurisdiction when it comes to the work of the labour registrar as cited in the Labour Relations Act.
“The labour registrar’s functions are written in the law, and if your function is written in the law, then a person cannot undermine it. That is why we found it unacceptable that the minister was playing Mickey Mouse with the law by removing Crouse from his position and placing someone else to take over,” he said.
The minister’s spokesperson Sithembele Tshwete said Oliphant’s lawyers were studying the judgment.
I don’t think that they are prepared to let this whole thing go