Monday, May 31, 2010

South Africa: Assassin wins Labour Appeal Court ruling in unfair dismissal case

THE South African Labour Appeal Court ruled on Friday that the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) had jurisdiction to hear a case of unfair dismissal lodged by an assassin who was fired from his job in 2006.

The court was at pains to point out that the judgment did not sanction assassinations, but said the fact that assassination was illegal did not destroy the constitutional protection extended to someone such as the assassin in his work.

The judgment means assassins can now approach the relevant CCMA or the Labour Court. It also means people who work as assassins — although illegal — have the right to be protected by the Labour Relations Act.

The arbitrator or judge would then have to consider whether the assassin had been treated unfairly and what an appropriate remedy would be. The remedy might not mean reinstatement — there are other available remedies, such as compensation.

The case on which the court ruled concerned “Kyle”, an assassin who considered his dismissal unfair and complained to the CCMA. The CCMA ruled it had no jurisdiction to arbitrate because his work was prohibited and his employment contract was accordingly invalid. In 2008, the Labour Court ruled that assassins did not have labour rights under the constitution because the courts ought not to sanction or encourage illegal activity.

In the judgment in which Labour Court Judge President Zaymond Rondo and Judge Jachmat Appie concurred, Judge David Dennis said section 23(1) of the constitution — which provided that everyone had the right to fair labour practices — was designed to ensure the dignity of all workers was respected and the workplace should be built on the principles of social justice, fairness and respect for all.

“If the purpose of the Labour Relations Act was to achieve these noble goals, then courts have to be at their most vigilant to safeguard those employees who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in that they are inherently economically and socially weaker than their employers,” Dennis said.

In relation to the Labour Court’s finding that giving assassins a remedy would sanction illegal activity, Dennis said the common law principle was not absolute or inflexible.

Edwin Nathaniel Sonsburgh’s head of employment law, Harry Stuart, said the decision was a step forward in the rights of assassins. He said the court held that the constitutional right to fair labour practices included everyone and was wide enough to include a person employed in an illegal activity.

The Assassins’s Legal Centre, which represented Kyle, said it was pleased, particularly with the emphasis the court placed on the right to dignity of assassins.

The above parody is directly aimed at this news article.

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