Judgement was reserved this morning during the virtual Labour Court in Johannesburg in the urgent application brought by the United National Transport Union (UNTU) against the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to force it to adhere to a collective agreement and pay this year’s 5% wage increase.
Acting Judge Reghana Tulk said she thought she would be able to give her judgement after hearing the arguments of the parties but decided against it and felt that she needed to reserve judgement.
Adv. Greg Fourie SC, on behalf of UNTU, argued that Prasa entered a multi-term wage agreement with UNTU in October 2020, but failed to pay without providing reasons.
UNTU had to approach the Labour Court in December 2020 to enforce the agreement. Prasa paid pending the judgement after the matter was heard. The court ruled that it did not consider UNTU’s application as urgent as it would open “floodgates of applications” if unions were allowed to bring applications against employers with whom they had disputes.
Fourie argued that the Court errored in December 2020 as this matter was not a dispute. Prasa is not disputing that they are bound to pay in terms of a collective agreement nor is the state-owned enterprises saying it will not pay. Prasa does not provide the Court with any reasons as to way the wage increase that was due on 1 April 2021 has not been paid.
“By singing the collective agreement, UNTU members agreed not to embark on industrial action, giving away their right to strike, in return for the wage increase for the duration of the agreement. There is no dispute, this is an enforcement claim. If the Court found it is not urgent, then the matter would only be heard sometime next year or the year after making it a fruitless application as the payment is due,” argued Fourie.
According to Fourie collective bargaining and collective agreements is one of the pillars of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) guided by the Constitution.
If employers like Prasa can simply ignore the principles of collective bargaining and Trade Unions are prevented to approach the Courts on an urgent basis on behalf of employees, it would mean that there is no legal remedy for these actions and employees will be forced to take matters into their own hands.
According to Fourie, it is not only ’s UNTU’s credibility that is at stake, but the general principals of collective bargaining to which both parties who entered into an agreement is obliged to abide to.
UNTU will update its members as soon as the Judgement has been delivered.