Labour Court Issues Cost Order against Union and Union Official

Labour Court Issues Cost Order against Union and Union Official

Human Resources

(Source: Cowan Harper Madikizela Attorneys)

The Labour Court in May handed down Judgment in the matter of Teti Traffic (Pty) Ltd v National Union of Metalworkers & Others (case no. J558/19) in which it ordered that the costs of an urgent application to the Labour Court declaring a strike unprotected was to be paid by NUMSA and its National Organiser.

In summary, the employer and NUMSA had negotiated a collective agreement which contained an agreement to, inter alia, establish a task team to explore the possibility of implementing a provident fund, medical aid scheme and the payment of a bonus. Several months later, after several meetings of the task team, no agreement on those issues could be reached and the Union referred another mutual interest dispute to the CCMA. It did so despite the fact that the issues were regulated by the collective agreement. The employer then approached the Labour Court on an urgent basis and obtained an interim Order declaring the strike unprotected and interdicting NUMSA and its members from participating in any strike.

On the return day, NUMSA conceded that the issue in dispute was regulated by the collective agreement and that the strike was unprotected. The employer nevertheless sought an Order directing NUMSA and the Organiser who had represented NUMSA throughout the relevant period to pay the employer’s legal costs, jointly and severally. The Labour Court was particularly critical of the Official’s conduct and found that the circumstances warranted an appropriate costs order. 

Orders directing a Union or its officials to pay an employer’s legal costs are rarely made, particularly in circumstances where there is an ongoing relationship with the employer. The Judgment is therefore unique and indicates that the Labour Court is prepared to grant costs orders in appropriate circumstances. The Judgment is important and serves as a stern warning to Unions and their officials to pursue only legitimate disputes or run the risk of adverse costs orders being made against them.