Powers of the Labour Court in South Africa

In this essay I intend, in my introduction, to give a brief background on the labour relations of South Africa before 1948. Obviously this will pertain to labour related issues. I will then deal with the history of South African labour laws before the Wiehahn Commission in 1979, recommendations of Wiehahn Commission, reflect on the reasons behind the introduction of an industrial court, workplace forums, bargaining councils, Commission for Concillitiation, Mediation and Arbitration (C. C. M.A), the powers of the Labour Court and Labour Appeal Court, and jurisdiction of the Labour Court.

In conclusion, I will focus on the impact of South African politics on our labour relations, and then give recommendations as to how the status quo can be ameliorated. INTRODUCTION It is important to note that in the interest of fair labour practices, the labour court which is a superior court that has authority, had to be established. This is because today's employees demand equality, transparency and autonomy in their work.

In September 1917, the Industrial Workers of Africa (I.W. W. ) which was the first African union in South African history was formed for the "salvation of the workers and to abolish the capitalist system, to fight for their rights and benefits" (Van der Walt, 2003:1). He continues to point out that millions of workers, who were now tired of continual betrayals by worker's parties and elected politicians, joined revolutionary trade unions that were committed to direct action and the replacement of capitalism and the state by workers' control of production between the 1890's and the 1930's.

Apartheid as a system of racial segregation, domination and oppression characterised the South African political policy throughout the second half of the 20th century (1948-1994). Its aim was to maintain social, economic and political division, which in a way, was designed to safeguard white power, wealth and superior status. Until it was eradicated with the democratic elections in 1994, apartheid was dominant in South African political life, facilitating the unjust and ruthless exploitation of African labour.

According to More (2003:1), "today's employees demand their rights as employees and want to be recognized and rewarded for their contributions in the workplace. They prefer to be consulted rather than instructed because they are aware of their worth. The employees, whose demands are either unrealistic nor unreasonable, want to be appreciated and treated as individuals and not as another irreplaceable member of the workforce".

One believes that it is on this basis that an independent judicial structure should be established, to safeguard the interests of both the employer and employee, to instill a sense of responsibility, accountability and fairness in their mutual relations. 1. HISTORY OF SOUTH AFRICAN LABOUR LAWS . (i) Before 1948: According to Kittner; Korner-Damman & Schunk (1989:3), South Africa's industrial development began in the second half of the nineteenth century with large diamond and gold discoveries.

The skilled workers who were white emigrated to South Africa; from Europe; the United States and Australia, and on their arrival decided to form their own (white) trade unions, and blacks and Asian workers were not represented. It must be understood that these groups were not in competition with each other, and as a result there were no labour disputes. The migration of unskilled workers from the country to the cities at the end of the 19th century led to unrest between white and black workers.

The unrest happened as a result of the national labour legislation, after the foundation of the Republic of South Africa in 1910, above all in the Mines and Works Act, 1911, according to which certain jobs in the mining industry were reserved for whites (Kittner et al, 1989:3). This means that South African labour laws were designed to maintain white domination and to deny basic worker rights for non-whites. Calnitsky (2003;2) goes on to say that ministers and officials were given extensive and arbitrary powers regarding trade unions, minimum wages and conditions of employment and factory legislation.

A separation of races was also established in industrial relations. (ii)After 1948: According to Kittner et al (1989:4), even before 1948, the year in which the National Party assumed power, black workers had tried to form independent black unions, but that was all in vain because the government was hostile to them. In a nutshell, as a manifestation of apartheid, the legislator only recognized unions with members of one skin colour, and only allowed white and coloured unions to participate in the industrial councils.

According to More (2003:2) "during this period, labour legislation in South Africa promoted unequal access to training; skills development; salaries; promotions; etc". This means the white workers benefited from this legislation. Job reservation and influx control left blacks unable to fend for themselves and inadequately trained. In the 1950's there were three influential trade unions, i. e. , SACOL (exclusively white); TUCSA (white and coloured) and coloured union and temporarily black unions; and SACTU ( black union).

In 1956 the LRA courts, guided by their unfair labour practice jurisdiction, identified a variety of employment practices apart from dismissals, which they pronounced unfair. Kittner et al (1989:3) states that as a result of its affiliation to the ANC, it openly "confronted the apartheid system". Because of hostile laws, it was disbanded and continued its work in exile. Blacks started to organize a series of strikes in the 1970's. The Wiehahn Commission of Inquiry into labour was appointed in 1977 by the government and it recommended the removal of discriminatory labour practices.