LAC contract workers ruling a victory for workers, says Jim

FILE PIC: Numsa Secretary general Irving Jim. Picture: Refilwe Modise

FILE PIC: Numsa Secretary general Irving Jim. Picture: Refilwe Modise

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has “secured a significant victory” at the Labour Appeals Court (LAC) for contract workers, the union’s general secretary Irwin Jim said on Saturday.

“We went to the LAC to seek clarity on the rights of contract workers after the three month period as referred to in the [Labour Relations Act] LRA s198A(3)(b) kicks in,” he said.

This week the Labour Appeals Court handed down a decision to reinforce the rights of temporary workers contracted by temporary employment services (TES).

The case involved a company called Assign Services, a labour broking company which was supplying contract staff to Krost Shelving and Racking. Assign believed that after the period of three months lapsed contract workers would be the responsibility of both Krost and Assign.

“As Numsa we contended that that the placed workers should be deemed as full-time employees of Krost, as they had been contracted to work there in excess of three months. In terms of the law Krost was the sole employer,” Jim said.

However, Assign Services disagreed. They believed that the workers were the responsibility of Assign and Krost as “dual employers” and that the temporary contract remained intact.

Initially the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) found that Krost should assume full responsibility as the sole employer. However, Assign was unhappy with that outcome and applied to the Labour Court to review the decision. The Labour Court overturned the decision of the CCMA commissioner, he said.

Numsa then took the case to the LAC which upheld the decision of the CCMA that indeed, contract workers automatically became full-time employees of the main employer after the three month period had lapsed.

“As Numsa we are pleased that the court has reinforced the principle that the purpose of temporary employment is short-term. If it extends beyond three months then a worker automatically becomes a permanent employee of the employer. The case also confirmed that once permanent, contract workers must be treated the same as permanent employees with the same rights and benefits.

“This is a victory for contract and temporary workers everywhere. It confirms that labour brokers may not exploit workers on contract for indefinite periods of time. We have seen this example in Transnet in Richards bay where 50 workers had their contracts terminated in order to circumvent the application of this law. They worked in excess of three months and yet Transnet has refused to grant them permanent status. Numsa will now pursue their plight even more aggressively and demand justice for our members,” Jim said.

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