Victory for COSATU and workers, as the Labour Appeals Court reverses the Labour Court’s decision to interdict the COSATU strike against the banking sector last year

The Congress of South African Trade Unions COSATU welcomes the Labour Appeals Courts ruling that reversed the previous ruling by the Labour Court that interdicted the COSATU strike against the banking sector last year.

The federation worked with its affiliated union SASBO to organize a financial sector strike against ongoing retrenchments in the financial sector.

BUSA, a business lobby group that represents the private sector in South Africa, went to court to interdict the strike, arguing that COSATU did not follow proper processes as articulated by Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act. After the strike was interdicted COSATU totally expressed its disapproval with the court’s decision and then launched an urgent appeal against the ruling.

Central to the appeal was the meaning and scope of section 77(1) of the LRA which provides as follows:

(1)  Everyone who is not engaged in an essential service or maintenance service has the right to take part in protest action if-

(a)  The protest action has been called by a registered trade union or federation of trade unions

(b)  The registered trade union or federation of trade unions has served a notice on NEDLAC stating

                             I.        The reasons for the protest action; and

                            II.        The nature of the protest

The Labour Appeals Court upheld the architecture of Section 77 which is instructive in nature. It requires an initial notice for the protest action and the nature of the protest action, pre-requisites that COSATU applied in the application of a section 77 notice to NEDLAC.

The Labour Appeals Court agreed with COSATU that the Federation followed all processes, and it was wrong for the Labour Court to grant the interdict. This is a huge victory for the workers because it protects the workers right to strike and protect Nedlac as an institution. 

This is a fundamental right that is entrenched in the Constitution of the Republic. The Reconstruction and Development Programme’s commitment to the protection of the right to strike and picket on all social and economic matters is unambiguous and unwavering.

This is also motivated by the 1985 statement of the ILO’s Freedom of Association Committee that “the right to strike should not be limited solely to industrial disputes that are likely to be solved by the signing of a collective agreement; workers and organisations should be able to express in a broader context , if necessary , their dissatisfaction as regards economic and social matters affecting their interests”.

The interdict by the Labour Court was meant to curtail and undermine this right. This is a significant victory by the workers because never has this need to defend the right to strike has been so critical than in this period we are now in.

This is critical at this point when workers are preparing to fight against a system that has always been gamed against us. There is a need to mobilise against this system through carrying out strikes and sustained civil disobedience to wrest power back from the oligarchic elite and to save ourselves.

Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794