Bloemfontein - Trade union federation Cosatu is studying the implications of a court ruling that trade unions can be held liable for damages caused during strikes, it said on Wednesday.
Cosatu said it would challenge any ruling seeking to place the liability for the violent actions of a few individuals on the shoulders of trade unions.
"Should this be the implication contained in the judgment, the federation would have no other choice but to take this matter up with the Constitutional Court," it said.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) dismissed an appeal by the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union in relation to protests in May 2006.
The judgment upheld a decision by the Western Cape High Court, in which eight people claimed damages from the union.
The group included traders whose stalls were looted and smashed and motorists whose vehicles were wrecked.
The unanimous SCA judgment accepted that assemblies, pickets, marches and demonstrations were essential instruments of dialogue in society.
However, it held that the struggle for workers' rights should take place within legal limits and with due regard for the rights of others.
"We should not now be subjected to the tyranny of the mob," the court held.
Democratic Alliance labour spokesperson Ian Ollis
said the court's ruling had vindicated the DA's private member's bill on the same subject.
Ollis said the latest development was "incredibly important" as it suggested that the Gatherings Act could already be used to hold unions liable for strike violence.
He welcomed the finding that unions should be held liable for damages during strike actions.