SNAT wins this round
MBABANE – The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) was yesterday successful in its bid to have government stop firing its members.
The Industrial Court issued an interim order stopping government from continuing to dismiss teachers for participating in the current strike action, albeit on an interim basis.
This, according to lawyer Mandla Mkhwanazi, means the dismissed teachers may be reinstated.
He said government had to consider withdrawing the letters of dismissal issued to a number of teachers, taking into account that the court had found that the dismissals were unlawful.
There was euphoria from over 80 teachers who had gone to the Industrial Court after Judge Nkosinathi Nkonyane and nominated members of the bench Simon Mvubu and Gilbert Ndzinisa had delivered the judgment. From inside the court, SNAT President Sibongile Mazibuko led the teachers in a chant ‘Viva SNAT viva,’ to which the members responded resoundingly. Lawyer Mandla Mkhwanazi represented SNAT.
Judge Nkonyane said in terms of the laws of the country, employees were not acting unlawfully when they participated in a lawful strike action. He said government and any other private employer who initiates disciplinary proceedings against and dismisses an employee for taking part in a protected and lawful strike action, flagrantly contravenes the country’s laws.
"Such conduct automatically amounts to unfair dismissal," Judge Nkonyane said.
He explained that automatically unfair dismissal was one where the reason for relieving one’s duties is for participating, supporting or showing intent to embark in a lawful strike action that complies with the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act of 2000 as amended.
"The court; therefore, comes to the conclusion that the requirements of a temporary interdict have been satisfied by the applicant (SNAT). The applicant’s members have a right to a fair pre-dismissal procedure," he said.
He added, "From the evidence before the court, the applicant’s members have also established that they have a well grounded apprehension of irreparable harm, and that they have no other remedy except to approach this court on an urgent basis, it being the only court with exclusive original jurisdiction in labour related disputes."
Nkonyane found that in the ultimatum issued by government warning teachers of dismissal if they did not return to work before July 31, 2012, was issued on July 25, 2012, coinciding with the commencement of the strike that has not been declared unlawful. He said the teachers; therefore, had reasonable fear if government was dismissing them for also failing to heed the ultimatum.
He agreed with Principal Crown Counsel Sifiso Khumalo’s submissions that government was dismissing the employees for taking part in the June 20 and July 6, strike actions, as such had been put succinctly in the letters of dismissal.
He said the July 25, 2012 ultimatum was the only and final one issued by government.
He ordered government to file papers in respect of the merits to have the matter argued on August 10, 2012.