Footing the (wage) bill: Reasoning, remedies and National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union v Minister of Public Service and Administration (CC)
Authors: Justin Winchester & Catherine Willis-Smith
Affiliations: Bachelor of Civil Law candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford; Teaching Assistant, Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 141 Issue 1, p. 169-200
In NEHAWU & others v Minister of Public Service and Administration & others 2022 (6) BCLR 673 (CC), the Constitutional Court declared invalid and unenforceable a clause regulating the third payment period in a collective agreement regulating periodic wage increases for public service employees. We do not take issue with the court’s findings concerning the validity of the impugned collective agreement. However, we question the reasoning provided for the ‘just and equitable’ remedy ordered. We find the court’s reasoning insufficient in so far as it overlooked applicable principles of corrective justice, the significance of the state being unjustifiably enriched by labour peace by curtailing public servants’ right to strike, and the consequences of its decision on the effectiveness of the delay-bar in preventing ill-motivated state self-review. We propose the bifurcated approach that the court adopted in the AllPay saga as a tool to adjudicate polycentric cases such as the impugned case, as it enhances the judiciary’s proper place in the separation of powers and maximises remedial possibilities for innocent third parties to state contracts. We conclude with what has happened on the ground since this decision was reached.