In the case of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa v Transnet SOC Ltd Case No: JS427/15 the question of whether or not a company may prevent union members – from wearing union-related clothing while at work and thus regulating dress code – was looked at.

This was the latest step in the long dispute between NUMSA and Transnet over the union’s insistence that its members be allowed to wear union T-shirts – and thus adopt a certain dress code – during working hours. 

Transnet initially prohibited unions from so doing but later extended the ban to members of all unions.  The Labour Court held that, given the wide interpretation that must be given to the right to engage in unions’ lawful activities, the ban infringed section 5 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA). 

The Court added that such a ban might be justified for safety purposes or if it provoked violent union rivalry. However, it was found unnecessary to consider that issue because Transnet had raised justification as a defence.  The relevant provision of the respondent’s clothing policy was set aside, as well any disciplinary action contemplated against employees for breaching the rule.

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