In May, 2002, several union members were dismissed by their employer and the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) said it would represent them in an unfair dismissal claim.
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration was not able to resolve the matter and Fawu took the matter to the Labour Court.
The union did not meet a 90-day deadline for the matter in the Labour Court, and told employees the matter could be revived if the court granted condonation.
Fawu’s attorney then told the union that the claim had no chance of success. The union did not take the matter further. The employees brought a civil claim against Fawu in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court and the court ruled in their favour.
The SCA later also ruled in favour of the employees. Fawu argued in the Constitutional Court that its constitution allowed it to withdraw legal services once it took the view that it would not be in its best interests to pursue a case.
It also said the employees could apply for condonation themselves.
The employees argued that leave to appeal should be denied because the matter did not raise a genuine constitutional issue.