The issue of short time is a contentious one at the workplace. It results in less take-home pay for employees. This was looked at in National Union of Mineworkers obo Mhlempu / UMSO Construction (Pty) Ltd – (2019) 28 BCCEI 6.7.2.
An employee was placed on short-time due to the operational requirements. His wages were reduced from 45 hours a week to 30 hours. The employee claimed that the employer was not entitled to send its employees home on reduced pay, and institute short time, and contended that this amounted to an unfair labour practice.
The Commissioner at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) noted that “short time” is not defined in the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 but that the applicable bargaining council agreement defined short time as a temporary reduction of the number of ordinary hours of work due to contingencies beyond the employer’s control which directly affects the employer’s ability to provide work.
This also means that if it is not contained in a bargaining council or collective agreement short time cannot be implemented without consent.
The Labour Relations Act (LRA) states that collective agreements may vary contracts of employment of parties bound by the agreements. A dispute relating to short time is properly dealt with by the bargaining council or the Department of Labour. Such disputes do not fall within the definition of “unfair labour practice”.
The conclusion that this was not an unfair labour practice was correct. If there had been a collective agreement this would have then been an unfair labour practice.
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In the era of Covid-19, the issue of short time has become ever apparent with many companies being forced into putting their employees onto short time in order to survive financially.
If you’re in any doubt of policies to apply in your workplace, please contact Marianne Gradwell – who is an HR specialist with us here at GBS – who will be able to assist. Follow this link to contact her.