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Legal Opinion

How to develop relationships with shop stewards

The term ‘shop steward’ – who is an employee at a workplace who is elected by the trade union members to represent them in dealings with management - is not used in the Labour Relations Act (LRA) when dealing with the relationship between trade unions and employers. Instead, the act uses the term ‘trade union representative’ (TUR) to mean the same thing. Anyone elected as a TUR has substantial influence over workers.


When are employees guilty "by association"?

Corporate entities, which have labour-intensive environments, are often the victims of significant stock losses or malicious acts. These result in significant and repeated financial loss to you, the employer. Because of large workforces and/or closely associated employees, it becomes difficult to identify and discipline the culprits. So what can you do? The answer lies in collective disciplinary action on the basis of 'derivative misconduct'.


How do you terminate someone’s employment when they should’ve already retired?

Because of advances in medical science, and the changing nature of working conditions, more and more people tend to work ‘til their later years. Sometimes, it makes sense for companies to allow certain employees to continue working after the agreed or “normal retirement” age. But how do you go about terminating employment during this period?


Double jeopardy is not on!

A recent article in The Star reported that the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) dismissed a man named Mr Pretorius. He had been the section head of the SABS’ crash test and component testing section.

Pretorius was reportedly dismissed for illegally selling crash test bodies after allegedly giving a crash test body to a friend in exchange for a go-cart sponsorship.

But from the report, it appears that he had already been given a 12-month final written warning for this very offence in August last year.


An employee has an obligation to comply with a reasonable instruction

The balance was tipped in favour of employers in the recent Labour Appeal Court decision of Motor Industry Staff Association and another v Silverton Spraypainters and Panelbeaters (Pty) Ltd and two others [2012] ZALAC 42 (LAC). Even though labour laws prohibit an employer from unilaterally changing terms and conditions of employment, this decision confirmed that employees do not have a vested right to preserve their working obligations completely unchanged.