The Labour Relations Act, 1997 (“LRA“) provides certain protections to employees participating in protected strikes. These employees are protected against disciplinary action or civil legal proceedings for participating in protected strikes and discontinuing any payments in kind of accommodation, the provision of food and basic amenities of life during the protected strike. Participation in a protected strike also does not amount to a delictual act or a breach of contract.

Massmart Holdings Limited brought a claim against the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (“SACCAWU“) seeking the payment of compensation for losses suffered by Massmart during the course of a protected strike called by SACCAWU in 2021.

Massmart brought this claim in terms of section 68(1)(b) of the LRA which empowers the Labour Court to make an order for payment of just and equitable compensation for any loss attributable to a strike or a lock-out ‘in the case of any strike or lock-out, or any conduct in contemplation or in the furtherance of a strike or lock-out’ that does not comply with the provisions of the LRA.

It was common cause between the parties that the strike was protected.  Massmart’s claim was based on the conduct of SACCAWU, its officials, members and/or supporters.  Massmart contended that SACCAWU, its officials, members and/or supporters’ strike was not peaceful and they engaged in various offences which included the failure to comply with chapter VI of the LRA, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Covid-related regulations, protocols and directives, the picketing rules established by the CCMA.

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