Our Constitutional Court dealt with the above-mentioned principles in the case of Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and Others v Chamber of Mines of South Africa and Others [2017] ZACC 3. In this case, it had to be decided whether workers at five gold mines may exercise the right to strike while an agreement prohibiting strikes, to which they were not participating in, is still valid. As the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) was not a party to the agreement, it did not regard itself as bound to it.

A Collective Agreement between the Chamber of Mines and other majority trade unions in the gold mining sector was found to be binding on members of AMCU. This is even though AMCU had majority representation at certain individual mines.

After an unpacking the legal principles around the extension of collective agreements, the Court found that AMCU’s challenges to the Constitutional principle – that the Labour Relations Act permits extensions of collective agreements to non-parties under section 23(1)(d) – cannot succeed.

Besides the issue of the extension of the Collective Agreement, the Court also had to decide on the issue of the definition of “workplace”. Both the Labour Court and the Labour Appeal Court determined that each mining house (collection of mines) operated fundamentally as a single workplace, and that each AMCU-majority mine was not an independent operation.

The Court found the Constitutional principle, legal analysis or factual assessment provided no reason for the Constitutional Court to overturn those findings.

Core principles of labour law have been enforced with this outcome. The Court has provided clarity on the definition of workplace and has reinforced the principle of Majoritarianism contained in the Labour Relations Act.

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