Tiger Brands has lost its application against an earlier finding that it had unfairly dismissed a worker who twice tested positive for alcohol when he reported for duty.

Cape Times report says the court found the company only held a disciplinary hearing months later following the incidents.

Tiger Brands turned to the Johannesburg Labour Court following a CCMA ruling that the worker was unfairly dismissed.

The commissioner at the time found that dismissal was too harsh and that a final warning would have sufficed.

The worker, Ben Mabizela, started working for the company in 2006 and was dismissed in 2019. He worked as a heavy machine operator at the company’s plant in Germiston.

Tiger Brands said as it had a strict code of conduct regarding a zero-tolerance for the consumption of alcohol when on duty.

It said its employees knew this and that the sanction was dismissal if anyone tested positive for alcohol or other substances.

In January 2019, Mabizela tested positive for alcohol when he reported for work and was sent home.

Three months later, the same happened.

In June he was called in for a disciplinary hearing regarding the January incident. This hearing was delayed, but in August he was given final warning regarding the January incident.

The next month he was called to a disciplinary hearing regarding the April incident. He was found guilty and fired.

The Cape Times report says while the CCMA commissioner accepted the zero-tolerance policy, he expressed concerns regarding the delays in both disciplinary proceedings.

The commissioner said dismissal was meted out in October for the April incident. He was fired because he was already on a final warning for the January incident.

But the commissioner said this ignored the fact that Mabizela was punished for the January 2019 offence after the April 2019 offence had occurred.

The CCMA, in its initial judgment, said it was astonishing that the employer took seven months to conclude the hearing regarding the January incident and six months to conclude the April transgression.

It was said that this was gross mismanagement of the disciplinary processes.

Labour Court Acting Judge T Gondidze turned down the review in the Labour Court and said the commissioner’s observation that the disciplinary process was grossly managed was a reasonable conclusion.

Had it acted promptly on the first incident, the final written warning would have served as a warning that a repeat would result in dismissal, the judge said.

Full Cape Times report