Amcu not the first union to fall foul of labour registrar

25 April 2019 - 13:48 By Ernest Mabuza
Labour relations registrar Lehlohonolo Molefe intends to cancel the registration of Amcu as a trade union.
Labour relations registrar Lehlohonolo Molefe intends to cancel the registration of Amcu as a trade union.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is not the first union to face the threat of being deregistered, or actually be deregistered.

There are a number of cases where unions have been deregistered and then failed to reverse the decision in the Labour Court.

On Wednesday, labour relations registrar Lehlohonolo Molefe announced in the  government gazette that he intended to cancel the registration of Amcu as a trade union.

The Labour Relations Act (LRA) sets out steps that need to be taken by the registrar to deregister the union.

Section 106 (2A) of the LRA states that the registrar may cancel the registration of a trade union if the registrar is satisfied that the trade union is not, or has ceased to function as, a genuine trade union.

The registrar may also cancel the registration if a union has failed to comply with sections 98, 99 and 100 of the Act within a period of 60 days.

These sections place a duty on trade unions to keep records of their income, expenditure, assets and liabilities, in accordance with generally accepted accounting practice, principles and procedures. The sections require that these financial statements be audited.

The act states that the registrar may not cancel the union's registration unless a notice in the government gazette has been published and an invitation has been sent to any other interested party.

In the case of Amcu, the registrar has based his decision to cancel the union's registration on the fact that it failed to comply with its constitution, which requires it to hold a congress every five years.

The act states that when a trade union's registration is cancelled, all the rights it enjoyed as a result of being registered will end.

Amcu, which last held a national congress in 2013, did not have a national congress in 2018 as required by its constitution.

Amcu is not the first union to be deregistered. It happened to the South African Security Forces' Union in 2011 after it failed to submit audited records of its income and expenditure.

Another union, the Protectors' Workers Union, was deregistered in 2012. It had not complied with the provisions of sections 98, 99 and 100 of the LRA.

Another basis was that the union had ceased to function as a trade union as envisaged in the LRA. It appealed against the decision in the Labour Court in 2013. The Labour Court dismissed the union's appeal, with costs, in July 2014.

However, the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers'  Union  (Ceppwawu) is still active despite not submitting its financial statements to the registrar for five years from 2010 to 2015.

Then labour relations registrar, Johan Crouse, launched an urgent application in the Labour Court in April 2015 to place Ceppwawu under administration.

Crouse made this application because the union had failed to prepare and submit audited financial statements to him for about five years. The union had also failed to hold meetings in compliance with the provisions of its constitution.

However, labour minister Mildred Oliphant revoked Crouse's status as registrar because of what she claimed was insurbodination, and appointed another registrar.

After a two-year battle, the Labour Appeal Court ordered the reinstatement of Crouse to his position in January 2017.

But Crouse had reached the retirement age of 65 and did not have time to reinstate the deregistration of Ceppwawu.