By Alois Vinga
A LEGAL expert has petitioned parliament, challenging the perpetuation of what he said was a weak labour court, which he claimed continues to be subject to the magistrates and High courts for full implementation of decisions.
In a submission filed through the justice, legal and parliamentary affairs portfolio committee, legal expert, Zakeyo Mtimtema, said while there are commendable clauses in the Judicial Laws Amendment Bill, with particular reference to the Labour Act, there was need to empower the labour court.
“There is urgent need to amend section 98 (14) so as to align it with the amendment to give enforcement powers to the labour court as opposed to the magistrate and high court,” said the submission.
“The said section provides that any party to whom an arbitral award relates may submit for registration the copy of it furnished to him in terms of subsection (13) to the court of any magistrate which would have had jurisdiction to make an order corresponding to the award had the matter been determined by it.
“It is therefore suggested that any reference to the magistrate court, high court and appropriate court in this section should be substituted by the labour court.”
Mtimtema is of the view that section 89 of the Labour Act should also be reviewed to broaden the constitutionally guaranteed powers of the labour court and give it exclusive power in labour matters.
“Currently, the labour court has no power to grant an interdict, a spoliation order, a declaratory order, or hear delictual claims arising from employment, and determine disputes between trade unions and employers’ or employers’ organisations’ operations. Such disputes are currently heard in the high court,” added the submission.
He argued that establishing the labour court as a stand-alone entity will not only decongest the high court, which is currently overwhelmed by spill over cases, but will also protect the poor from tendencies being exhibited by influential groupings in society, who unnecessarily approach the alternative courts.
The labour expert also called for the establishment of a labour appeals court as opposed to going towards the route of the Supreme Court, which requires highly technical approaches many employees may not meet easily.
He underscored that the current mixture of common law courts and specialised courts defeats the whole purpose of having a special court like the labour court, whose decisions are then appealed to the Supreme court, which is a common law court.
“The famous case of Nyamande and Another v Zuva Petroleum (Pvt Ltd) Sc43 of 2015) in which thousands of workers were dismissed on common law grounds is such a memorial example of this mischief of common law as interpreted by the Supreme Court at the expense of social justice and equity,” added Mtimtema.