The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) on Thursday welcomed the Constitutional Court judgment which strengthened the rights of temporary workers.
The amendment to Section 198A(3)(b) of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) was under scrutiny in this case relating to whether this deeming provision resulted in a “sole employment” relationship between a placed worker and a client or a “dual employment” relationship between a Temporary Employment Service (TES), a placed worker and a client.
Numsa represented employees from Assign Services who challenged the dual-employer interpretation.
The Labour Appeals Court set aside the order of the Labour Court and held that a placed worker who has worked for more than three months was no longer performing a temporary service and that the client, not the TES, was the sole employer of the worker according to Section 198A(3)(b) of the LRA.
In the Labour Court it was held that a proper reading of the section could not support the sole employer interpretation. It instead held that Section 198A(3)(b) created a dual
employment relationship, in which both the TES and the client have rights and obligations in respect of workers. In an appeal, by Numsa, to the Labour Appeals Court it was found that the sole employer interpretation best protected the rights of placed workers and promoted the purpose of the LRA.
The Constitutional Court upheld the decision of the Labour Court and dismissed the application made by Assign Services with costs.
This means that casual workers who earn R205 000 a year and less and who are employed by labour brokers, are eligible to become permanent employees of the main employer after three months.
“Labour brokers can no longer abuse these contracts and extend them beyond the 3-month stipulation given in the Labour Relations Act. This is a major victory for casual and temporary workers who are abused by labour brokers. We view this as the first step in ending the labour brokering system in South Africa.
“Our experience with labour brokers is that they are extremely abusive and expose workers to low wages and terrible working conditions. We hope this decision will be the death knell of the entire industry and, as Numsa, we will continue to fight for a total ban on labour brokers. We call on all casual workers to unite behind Numsa so we can ensure their rights in the workplace,” said Numsa.