The labour court on Thursday ruled that the banking strike, which was due to take place on Friday, is unlawful.
In her ruling, Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker said the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Society of Bank Officials (Sasbo) had failed to comply with the provisions of section 77 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA).
Rabkin-Naicker interdicted the unions from “proceeding or encouraging employees to continue on the strike until they have compiled with section 77”.
The Act gives workers the right to take part in protest action to promote or defend their socio-economic interests with protection against dismissal and other disciplinary action.
But before intended protest action, the Act gives the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) — a policy-making body made up of government, business, labour and communities — the task of bringing the parties together to first attempt to resolve the reasons for protest action.
If an agreement cannot be reached, Nedlac will issue a certificate indicating no resolution can be reached.
Business Unity South Africa (Busa) had argued that for a strike related to socio-economic issues is to be protected in terms of section 77 of the LRA, parties must consult with each other at Nedlac.
Both Cosatu and Sasbo had planned to down tools on Friday in protest against recent retrenchments in the banking sector.
The unions had said 50 000 of their workers had already indicated their participation and the strike would have resulted in a complete shutdown of systems, including ATMs.
In response to the ruling, Cosatu deputy general secretary Solly Phetoe said the strike is not over but “suspended”.
He said they are planning to file for an appeal and resubmit papers to Nedlac.
“We are not going to demobilise our members we are going to continue to mobilise our members against the exploitation and the continuation of retranchements both in the bank sectors, agriculture, mining and manufacturing”.
Sasbo general secretary Joe Kokela said it is going back to explain the judgement to its members.
Kokela said he hopes things go well with Nedlac and the appeal, allowing the unions to embark on protest action on October 7.
“This is the beginning of the struggle and this application of this kind us never happened before where we have to go under section 77. We are not surprised but we are going to appeal.
Kaizer Moyane, Nedlac convener for Busa, said they are pleased that the judge had confirmed what they have always been saying that “the unions have failed to follow the right procedures in terms of section 77 before declaring their intentions to go and protest.”
“We do not see this as a victory for us.”
“We are saying the real victory would be after we have resolved our issues through dialogue,” Moyane said.
Moyane added that the union’s action of not passing through Nedlac would have only damaged the economy which is not in anyone’s interest.