The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has approached the Constitutional Court to seek the reinstatement of 733 workers who were dismissed by Aveng Trident Steel.
The steel fabricator in 2015 issued a Section 189 notice, informing workers of its plans to restructure the company.
According to Numsa, Aveng had issued a letter during the consultation process in April 2015, demanding that workers accept new changes to their terms and conditions of employment, and if they refused, their contracts would be terminated.
Numsa said the subsequent dismissal of 733 Numsa members had been in violation of the Labour Relations Act, which provided that workers could not be dismissed for refusing a change in their terms and conditions.
The union had taken the matter to the Labour Court, where the dismissals were upheld, and subsequently to the Labour Appeals Court, but the application was denied there too.
Aveng Trident Steel, during the hearings, argued that the workers were dismissed because of a change in operational requirements and not because of a change in their terms and conditions.
Aveng Trident Steel also said the letter that it issued in 2015 was issued as a proposal based on operational requirements and not a demand.
“If Aveng succeeds at the Constitutional Court, it means employers can circumvent the Section 189 consultation process by simply tabling demands to employees about changes to their terms and conditions.
“If they refuse, then they will be dismissed. It is therefore important that the Constitutional Court clarifies this issue in order to protect workers from being exploited by the bosses,” Numsa said.