The Labour Court in Johannesburg has quashed what would have been the biggest banking strike in 99 years, by ruling the planned protest action was unlawful.

However, the matter is not over and although Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker granted an interdict against the strike and will give her reasons 'in due course’, the unions have already indicated an appeal is in the offing.

In the order issued yesterday, Rabkin-Naicker declared that Cosatu and finance union Sasbo had failed to comply with provisions of section 77(1) of the Labour Relations Act (LRA). She said as a result, any person who took part in the planned protest action would not get protection provided to striking workers in terms of the Act.

She also directed Cosatu and Sasbo to advise its affiliates that the intended protest action was unlawful.

TimesLIVE noted the judgment follows an urgent application by Business Unity SA (Busa) to stop the planned ‘total shutdown’ of the sector, which the union had warned would involve between 45 000 and 50 000 of its members. A second wave of protests is planned for 7 October.

Sasbo general secretary Joe Kokela claimed last month that Standard Bank planned to retrench 6 000 employees, Nedbank 3 000 employees and Absa 878 employees. But Standard Bank and Nedbank have poured cold water on the claims.

Pivotal to the case was whether Cosatu and Sasbo could rely on a section 77 notice in the LRA that was filed with Nedlac in August 2017. The section regulates protest action that promotes the socio-economic rights of workers, says the TimesLIVE report.

Cosatu served a notice to Nedlac in August 2017 where it outlined its demands in respect of the economic crisis at the time.

Cosatu wanted private companies to be prohibited from retrenching employees with a view to maximising profits.

Nedlac issued a certificate in November 2017 in which it declared that the government and business appeared to be no longer committed to engage on the August 2017 notice by Cosatu. This certificate by Nedlac empowered Cosatu to notify Nedlac of its intention to engage in protest action this year, Cosatu advocate Deniel Berger SC had argued.

However, according to Fin24, Rabkin-Naicker ruled ‘Cosatu and Sasbo are hereby interdicted with encouraging or enticing employees to engage in the intended protest action ... unless and until such time as they have complied with section 77 of the LRA’.

She made no order in terms of costs.

Full TimesLIVE report

Full Fin24 report