The Labour Appeal Court has ruled that striking workers who carried weapons such as sticks and golf clubs during a picket, knowing it was against their company’s rules, deserved to be dismissed. A Pretoria News report notes that a company called Pailpac turned to the court after it had dismissed several workers for taking part in a strike while being ‘armed’. There are clear signs on the company’s premises stating that it was illegal to strike while armed.
Initially, an arbitrator of the bargaining council had found that the dismissal of the workers – all members of the Numsa – was unfair and ordered their reinstatement. The union embarked on a strike in the metal and engineering industry in July 2014. The employees who participated in the strike were dismissed for misconduct relating to the carrying of weapons such as sticks, PVC rods, sjamboks and golf clubs. The dismissed employees were found guilty as charged at individual disciplinary hearings and dismissal was recommended. Pailpac dismissed all of them. After they turned to the bargaining council in a bid to be reinstated, the arbitrator said their dismissals were unfair, as she reasoned it could not be said the workers knew of the rule that they may not carry weapons during a strike.
Pailpac challenged this finding on review. The Labour Court dismissed the review, after which the company took the matter to the Labour Appeal Court. Judge Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane said any reasonable employee would know that bringing a dangerous weapon to work would not be tolerated. To do so was in flagrant disregard of a clear workplace rule which prohibits such conduct during a picket or strike, and expressly warns that the consequences of the breach is the sanction of dismissal. Numsa said it would appeal the ruling at the Constitutional Court.