When showers of rain poured outside the Industrial Court last week, soon after the handing down of the much-awaited ruling in the BOPEU vs BOFEPUSU, many thought it was at last uhuru; the elusive peace had been attained.
As judge president of the Industrial Court, it would seem Justice Tebogo Maruping had made sure he does not just come out with a legal ruling, but one inspired by the desire to see the trade unions, and all trade unions working together for the betterment of their members’ lives.
In his judgement there are no particular winners per se, as he made sure he embraced all the trade unions involved in the case, and made sure he made it clear to them that they are very important in the resolution of the matter; from the Manual Workers’ Union, to BOPEU, and all recognised public sector unions, Maruping invited them all to the mediation table under the chairmanship of the commissioner of Labour.
He set an agenda too, regarding items to be discussed, the time frame, as well as volunteering to help where he may be needed during the process of mediation.
For Justice Maruping, the PSBC constitution had to be fixed, and the unions had to go back and align the threshold figure to the reality on the ground to allow the individual unions to come to the bargaining table without punishing themselves. With the judge’s words followed by peaceful showers, one may had concluded this was the words of wisdom, the wisdom of the heavens and that the agitation was over.
With the case at the Appeals’ Court, it is the real bare knuckle fight now and this is where the workers have a reason to shudder, because unlike the Industrial Court which is seen as the court of equity and law, the court of Appeal may choose to be rigid and cruel to the other party, in the worst case scenario, leaving no room for reconciliation.
Reconciliation has been the word on everyone’s lips from day one of the misunderstandings between the rival public sector unions and when the industrial court finally uttered it, there was hope among the proponents of this route that the light was finally about to prevail.