Johannesburg - A Constitutional Court ruling on Wednesday
holding trade union Satawu liable for a riot damage claim was welcomed by
Business Unity SA (Busa).
"This provides legal certainty to business in cases
where public gatherings become destructive and result in injury, loss of
property or life," Busa said in a statement.
It agreed that organisers were obliged to take reasonable
steps to avoid conduct that could cause damage to private property and harm to
"Organisers of gatherings, including those which are
linked to employment-related concerns, should be expected to make contingency
plans to avoid collateral damage of the kind identified by the court."
Earlier, the ruling was hailed by Cape Town mayor Patricia
"While we respect the right of any organisation to
organise legal strike action and to assemble, these rights must be balanced
against the rights of ordinary citizens, who should not to be unduly prejudiced
by the exercise of this right."
In a statement, De Lille said the implication of the ruling
against the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) was that organisers
would be obliged to take steps to prevent destructive conduct.
"The decision will further afford effective legal
recourse to victims if a gathering becomes destructive and results in injury,
loss of property or life."
The ruling also paved the way for the city to formally
pursue a damages claim against the SA Municipal Workers' Union. Damages in the
region of R100 000 were recorded during its strike in August 2011.
Earlier on Wednesday the Democratic Alliance called the
ruling a massive victory.
"For too long, Cosatu (the Congress of SA Trade Unions)
and its affiliates have been allowed to engage in violent and chaotic strikes
without any repercussions," DA MP Ian Ollis said in a statement.
The ruling would force the unions to keep better discipline
at marches, pickets and strikes.
"I will, therefore, continue pushing for an amendment
to the Labour Relations Act to explicitly hold unions liable for damage during
strikes, in any and all cases.
"This ruling must be written into the letter of the law
to stop the practice of violent, chaotic and disorganised strikes once and for
all," Ollis said.
The court ruled that the Satawu was responsible for damages
caused during a march by security guards in Cape Town in May 2006.
It found the
Regulation of Gatherings Act afforded victims effective recourse when a gathering
became destructive and resulted in injury, loss of property, or life.
"The organisations are intimately involved in the
planning, supervision, and execution of the gathering, but the potential
victims are not," Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said in the ruling.
"Because of this, the organisations would be in a
better position than innocent victims to identify individuals or institutions
which caused the damage."
He said the union had the opportunity of a "soft
landing" if it could track down those responsible for the damage caused
during the protest and recoup its loss from them.
The union appealed twice against the decision and was turned
down on both occasions.