Labour Appeal Court upholds dismissal of employees for carrying weapons during strike action

​​The Labour Appeal Court has ruled that employees can be dismissed for carrying weapons during a strike and it is reasonable to expect them to know that this is a dismissable offence

The Labour Appeal Court (LAC)1 recently confirmed that it is fair to dismiss employees who carry weapons during a strike and that employers can reasonably expect employees to know that having dangerous weapons at work (or during a strike) is unacceptable and a dismissible offence.

The dismissed employees were NUMSA members employed by Pailpac (Pty) Ltd (Pailpac), who participated in a protected strike, during which they carried weapons (sticks, PVC rods, sjamboks and golf clubs). They were charged for "brandishing and wielding weapons during a strike".

The employees referred an unfair dismissal dispute to the Metal and Engineering Industry Bargaining Council (MEIBC) for arbitration, where their dismissals were found to be unfair.  Pailpac applied to the Labour Court to review the arbitration award but the Labour Court upheld it. Pailpac then appealed to the LAC.

The primary issue was to determine whether the dismissed employees were aware of the rule not to carry weapons during the strike. The picketing rules were placed on the official notice board where employees obtained various work-related information, for example what doctors they could see etc. It was clear to the LAC that the dismissed employees were fully aware of their obligation to read the notices and other communications posted on the board.  Accordingly, the LAC found that the employees were aware, or could reasonably have been expected to be aware, of the picketing policy.  While this judgment turned on the question of employees being aware of workplace rules, the LAC stated that any reasonable employee would in any event know that having dangerous weapons at work is not acceptable.

In terms of the sanction of dismissal, the LAC therefore held that:

"[30] As acknowledged by the arbitrator in her award, any reasonable employee would know that bringing a dangerous weapon to work would not be tolerated.  Thus, to do so in flagrant disregard of a clear workplace rule which prohibits such conduct during a picket or strike, and expressly warns that the consequences of the breach is the sanction of dismissal."

The practical relevance of this judgment is the test to be applied when employees claim that they were not aware of workplace rules. The correct test is not only whether the employees were actually aware of the rule, but also whether they could reasonably be expected to be aware of it. It is also relevant that the LAC confirmed that sticks, pipes, sjamboks and golf clubs are "dangerous weapons", a term which is usually found in picketing rules.

1 - Pailpac (Pty) Ltd v De Beer N.O and Others (DA12 2018) [2021] ZALAC (01 March 2021).


These materials are provided for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal or other professional advice. While every effort is made to update the information regularly and to offer the most current, correct and accurate information, we accept no liability or responsibility whatsoever if any information is, for whatever reason, incorrect, inaccurate or dated. We accept no responsibility for any loss or damage, whether direct, indirect or consequential, which may arise from access to or reliance on the information contained herein.

© Copyright Webber Wentzel. All Rights reserved.

Webber Wentzel > News > Labour Appeal Court upholds dismissal of employees for carrying weapons during strike action
Johannesburg +27 (0) 11 530 5000
Cape Town +27 (0) 21 431 7000
Validating email against database, please wait...
Validating email: please wait...
Email verified: Please click the confirmation link sent to your mailbox, also check junk/spam folder. If you no longer have access to this email address or haven't received the verification email then email
Email verified: You are being redirected to manage your subscription
Email could not be verified: Please wait while you are redirected to the Subscription Form
Unanticipated error: Saving your CRM information Subscription Form