The Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) must stop using the tax
money of the working class to bring pointless court cases that it has no
chance of winning - cases that seem to have the sole aim of preventing
workers from organising.
This is the very same Department that is completely unable to enforce
the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and basic health and safety
standards on farms because it says it doesn't have the funding to hire
Labour Inspectors. The DEL is also failing to implement the National
Minimum Wage Act, with tens of thousands of workers, potentially more,
being paid less than the minimum wage.
Instead of wasting money on challenging small organisations made up of
vulnerable, casual workers, the DEL should hire more Labour Inspectors
and combat the internal corruption in the Unemployment Insurance Fund
and Compensation Funds.
Key points in judge van Niekerk's ruling (attached):
* The Registrar was wrong to assert that another court would rule that
section 95 of the LRA is so restrictive that it limits workers to
joining only unions of a certain type (those unions that do not elect
rotating steering committees but only elect a tiny group of leaders who
remain in leadership positions for three years). Judge van Niekerk
points out that the courts have already ruled that the rights of workers
to freely associate "must be interpreted generously".
* The Registrar had insisted that SWF’s constitution does not comply
with s95 of the LRA, because it does not establish the office of a
Secretary. The Court held that this was incorrect: SWF’s constitution
does indeed establish the office of a Secretary. Insofar as the
Registrar contended that a Secretary must be a permanent General
Secretary who manages the union’s administration (instead of a rotating
role, elected at each Meeting), the Court held that the SWF constitution
provided for the Standing Committee to administer the union, subject to
the overall direction and control of Meetings. SWF “is entitled to make
* The Registrar had complained that the LRA treats unions equally and
does not make provision for ‘traditional’ or ‘new’ forms. The Court
agreed that all unions are treated equally, but this does not mean that
the Registrar is entitled to refuse to register a union that has chosen
to adopt organisational structures which do not replicate those of the
unions which are currently registered.
* The Registrar claimed that the Court had measured the union’s freedom
of association rights against the SA Constitution instead of the LRA,
but the Court held that here again he was wrong: Section 8 of the LRA
gives full expression to the constitutional rights to freedom
Background to the case:
In June 2022, the Registrar rejected the SWF's application to register
as a union for reasons that have no validity in law, except his own
insistence that it did not look like traditional trade unions.
The SWF challenged this in the Labour Court and won the case in June
2023, with judge van Niekerk ruling that the Registrar must register SWF
within 14 days. The Registrar then brought a fruitless and wasteful
application for leave to appeal this ruling last month, which he has
now, again, lost.
The SWF has consciously resolved not to have positions such as general
secretary, president, and deputy president. Instead, it has a Standing
Committee which takes minutes of all meetings, keeps an attendance
register, and controls the collection and spending of membership fees.
Each meeting elects a different chairperson and a secretary, at least
one of whom must be a woman. This ensures that everyone gets a chance to
develop skills in meeting procedures and prevents domination by any
particular workplace or grouping, and minimises the likelihood of
For comment, please call:
SWF - Vuyelwa Magidela - 076 154 3813
CWAO – Sydney Moshoaliba on 078 562 1942
Category: PRESS RELEASE | SWF / CWAO