3 November, 2022When Zheng Yong Swaziland unilaterally decided to stop deducting union dues for 1,276 workers as part of the garment maker’s anti-union behaviour, the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA) immediately launched a court challenge.
It seems that Zheng Yong took this step as retaliation after workers went on strike to demand living wages. But ATUSWA, affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, took the employer to the Industrial Court, which ruled on 31 October in the union’s favour.
The court heard that since May, Zheng Yong has not been deducting union dues from the workers and remitting them to the union as required by the Industrial Relations Act. By so doing, the employer was denying the workers, their freedom of association, and the union was being unfairly deprived of the much-needed revenue. Workers were even puzzled why the deductions had stopped when they were still members of ATUSWA.
The court stated in the judgment that by not paying the dues to the union the employer was resorting to unlawful “self-help” which violated the Industrial Relations Act which states that the employer has an obligation to deduct the dues from union members and to pay them to the union without delay.
Zheng Yong, which is cited as 1st respondent “is interdicted and restrained from unilaterally deciding to stop remitting monthly subscriptions to the Applicant as and when it wants to” reads the judgment in which ATUSWA is the Applicant.
Wander Mkhonza, ATUSWA secretary general says:
“After Zheng Yong unilaterally decided to stop deducting and remitting union dues, ATUSWA took the employer to court. Further, we engaged the membership of the union on the action we were taking and prepared them for likely outcomes."
"Fortunately, we ended up winning the matter in court and the employer has been ordered to pay even the subscription arrears.”
He commended the unity that the workers showed during the court case as they showed up in large numbers during the hearings. This took place amid intimidation and violence from the police, with support from the employers, who teargassed the striking workers.
Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary says:
“This is a welcome ruling because it strengthens the struggle of the workers in Eswatini for living wages and for the respect of their rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Employers must engage with unions and the government to promote social dialogue and to build an industrial relations system that benefits workers.”
After the strike in May, over 300 workers were dismissed at Zheng Yong, FTM Garments, and Ho’s Enterprises. For instance, at Ho’s Enterprises, the union lodged a dispute over the unfair dismissals which led to most workers remaining at work after the company reversed the dismissals.