Meatco workers back on overtime grind
Meatco workers have resumed overtime work this week. This followed after Meatco approached the Labour Court on 08 April 2013, on an urgent basis to declare the industrial action of its employees, which include an overtime ban and an operational “go-slow”, in contravention with employment agreements, the Recognition Agreement with NAFAU and the employees and the Labour Act. Meatco further applied for an interdict to restrain its workers from continuing with this action and to not interfere with or obstruct operations. This included but was not limited to the intimidation of fellow employees and interference with Meatco’s daily operations.
The court found that it had no jurisdiction to make a decision on the basis that a dispute was not lodged with the Office of the Labour Commissioner’s and a resolution on this dispute was not pending at the time the request for an interdict was made by Meatco.
Judge Dave Smuts, who presided over the hearing, did however say that in his view, once the conditions of employment included an obligation to work overtime when required, it would follow that the refusal to do so during wage negotiations would constitute industrial action on the part of those employees.
He also said that it would seem to him, in the context of Meatco’s business, that it would be a material term of the employment of employees, whether temporary or permanent, that they would need to work overtime if operational requirements would dictate that.
NAFAU and the Meatco workers, through their Legal Counsel, made the point that the court would only have jurisdiction to grant a temporary interdict if a dispute had firstly registered with the Office of the Labour Commissioner, in terms of Chapter 8 of the Labour Act. Judge Smuts agreed and said that when Meatco’s application was brought, there was no such dispute pending and that his court did thus not have jurisdiction to hear the application. Meatco’s application was therefore dismissed.
After the ruling Meatco accordingly approached the Labour Commissioner’s Office to have a formal dispute declared. Discussions between Meatco, the Unions and the workers however continued and the outcome was that the workers and the Union yesterday agreed to start working normal overtime as of Monday this week.