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

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