Solidarity's contempt of court application dismissed

2014-10-15 13:27

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Cape Town - Solidarity has not proved that correctional services wilfully failed to comply with a court order forcing it to take both national and regional demographics into account for appointments, the Cape Town Labour Court ruled on Wednesday.

Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker subsequently dismissed Solidarity's application to find the correctional services department in contempt of court.

"My finding in this matter should not be read as condoning any failure by the... employer to meet its constitutional obligation to obey orders of this court," she said.

Solidarity launched the contempt of court application on behalf of 10 of its members last week.

A year ago, Rabkin-Naicker granted the members, Western Cape correctional services employees, an order that forced the department to consider both national and regional demographics in recruiting and promoting staff.

The officials felt disadvantaged by the department's employment equity plan because they are coloured.

The respondents in the matter are Justice and Correctional Services Minister Mike Masutha, the correctional services department, the department's acting national commissioner Zach Modise and Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant.

In February, Labour Court Judge Anton Steenkamp ruled that the department had to abide by the initial order after the department argued that it did not, pending an appeal.

The union then launched an ex-parte application after claiming it had not received any feedback from the department on its compliance with Steenkamp's order despite numerous letters and contact.

 Appointments

It said it asked the department in April to indicate how it was complying after it confirmed that more than 200 positions had been advertised and that shortlisting was taking place.

Greta Engelbrecht, for Solidarity, said last week the department undertook to investigate the appointments and review those that did not comply with the order, in a meeting in May.

Since then, they had not received a response on whether the review had taken place.

The department opposed the ex-parte application on procedural grounds and argued that it would be a grave injustice to grant an order based on mere allegations of non-compliance.

On Wednesday, Rabkin-Naicker said nothing had been proved beyond reasonable doubt but that she wished the respondents to be more open with the applicants.

"In this spirit, I trust that the respondents will share the steps they have taken to comply with the court order in question, with their employees and their trade unions," she said.

"Transparency of this kind can only enhance employment relationships and... such transparency is in the public interest."

Dates for hearing the appeal and cross-appeal of the initial order have not yet been set down.

Read more on:    solidarity  |  cape town

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