Automatically unfair and operational requirement dismissals : making sense of the 2014 amendments

20 Feb 2017

This article explores the concept of the automatic unfair dismissal that is regulated in s 187(1)(c) of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (LRA), where the reason for the dismissal is to "compel the employee to accept a demand in respect of any matter of mutual interest". This provision raised important questions of law, as it brought to the fore the conflict that existed between this provision and sections 188(1)(a)(ii) and 189 of the LRA, which permits dismissals for operational requirements. This dichotomy was dealt with by the court in Fry's Metals (Pty) Ltd v National Union of Metalworkers of SA 2003 ILJ 133 (LAC), but the decision was controversial and faced criticism. The decision of the court was consequently rendered incorrect, resulting in the amendment to s 187(1)(c), which now reads that a dismissal is automatically unfair if the reason for the dismissal is a refusal by employees to accept a demand in respect of any matter of mutual interest between them and their employer. However, it is doubtful whether the amended provision provides a solution to the contradiction that exists. Resultantly, this article seeks to critique the amendment and to make recommendations regarding the regulation of this part of labour law.