Go gentle into that strike, court orders

Traders and shoppers at a Durban mall may be able to down their ear muffs after a court ordered that strikers should picket quietly and chant softly.

“The judgment sends a strong message to picketers that while they are entitled to exercise their right to picket, this must still take place within the confines of the law,” according to a statement from employment law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr today.

The order, confirmed earlier this month, related to an application by landlord Growthpoint, who manage La Lucia Mall.

While in the throes of a labour dispute with Dischem, the SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers’ Union (Saccawu) raised the ire of shoppers, tenants and the landlord as they kept their spirits up with songs, whistles and vuvuzelas that are the trademarks of protests in South Africa.

An occupational hygienist reported the ambient noise level increased from the usual 65 decibels (dB) to more than the legal limit of 85dB, according to the regulation governing noise-induced hearing loss.

The landlord argued this disturbed and intimidated members of the public and disrupted normal business operations in the immediate vicinity of the basement parking entrance.

The “amplification of the picketers chanting and blowing of instruments, registered above levels considered healthy“, the court was told.

However, Judge Dhaya Pillay of the Durban High Court said in terms of the Labour Relations Act the picketers were allowed freedom of expression and were allowed to picket.

But, he felt this right should be limited to not causing a nuisance to tenants, landowners and shoppers.

“The limitation on Saccawu and its members is only to lower their noise level. They are not precluded from demonstrating, picketing, carrying placards, singing and chanting softly,” he ordered.

Johan Botes, director of the law firm, said: “This is a welcome message in the face of various incidents of unlawful conduct we have seen during recent strikes at pickets, ranging from damage caused to property to intimidation and even abduction.

“Landowners can take comfort from the judgment, where the court came to the assistance of landlords trying to protect the livelihood of their tenants.”

In terms of the judgment, the police are also authorised to assist in the enforcement of the order.

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