I found myself in Labour law by chance – when my erstwhile Partner, who was previously my Principal, offered my articles of clerkship and the majority of the practice consisted of labour law. Can I just say, I have never looked back! I have only recently become a member of SASLAW (November 2015), but am eternally grateful that I made the leap to membership as there has been incredible support and a wealth of knowledge that has come my way ever since joining. I love the growing and exciting nature of the labour sector in our Country and the ever-increasing jurisprudence available. I think we, as a Society, are realising the importance of protection of both Employers and Employees at such a rapid rate, that the jurisprudence applicable is never enough. I look forward to contributing more to SASLAW and the labour sector in general in the passage of time.
Genevieve Brand , Director – WCIS Attorneys
I will be celebrating my 20th year as the Business Governance and Legal Services Executive at Masscash on 2nd February 2017, which I believe is almost for the full life span of SASLAW as a joined in the first financial year of SASLAW (1998).
I joined when I was appointed as Head of Legal services for Shield Buying & Distribution (Pty) Ltd, which company was at the time a whole owned subsidiary of Massmart Holdings Limited, which was then later, approximately 8 years ago moved into a division of Massmart Holdings Limited, namely Masscash (Pty) Limited. Shield is still operating as a separate legal entity within Masscash and I now manage the whole divisions’ legal function. When I headed up the legal division for Shield only, I dealt with all the labour matters and in order to stay abreast I tried to attend almost all the monthly presentations as it was so informative and helpful to me having just being appointed in a position where I had to deal with a Union (SACCAWU), its members and shop stewarts for the first time in my career. During those early years, the meetings were held in a pre-cast building at Wits, and we were only a handful Throughout these years, I have always found your presentations extremely valuable, professionally presented and of high quality in whatever topic your esteemed members or guest speakers presented. The venues are also well accessible and always great snacks and drinks.
Years later, I was very proud of introducing SASLAW to a friend of mine, Dorette van Zyl, a family advocate from Bloemfontein to your presentation 2/3 years ago held at ENS, which she so thoroughly enjoyed and shortly thereafter you constituted the Bloemfontein Chapter, which she joined. Not sure if the Chapter is still up and running. She was impressed with the opportunities we enjoyed here in Johannesburg and was very excited that you were moving into Bloemfontein.
Last Tuesday evening, the 24th of January 2017 I attended the first seminar for 2017 and made sure I got a photo with Clare. A special word must go to Clare for having been the cornerstone of the success of this Chapter. Your professionalism, kindness, competency and friendly demeanour speaks of the quality SASLAW delivers. Thank you for always securing the best speakers and identifying the most topical themes to address. Big thanks to you for your service to all of us over the years.
I wish SASLAW all the best with their continued professional and informative work you do and the presentations you offer your members.
Dr. Adelle van Schalkwyk
Business Governance/Legal Services Executive/Ethics Officer
After many decades in generalist HR management in various unionised, male-dominated, manufacturing sectors, black pants with dark top had become my standard work wardrobe. So after a few challenging encounters with a Sector Education and Training Authority CEO, in my nominated role as Board member and acting Board Chairperson, the CEO nicknamed me “Darth Vader”. Personally, I much prefer that title to “dear old duck”, which striking shop stewards painted on their posters.
Now I don’t know to what extent the nickname “got around”. However, when a union organiser subsequently unexpectedly encountered me at a local company, which they were intending to organise, he never returned. The employees had to find another union to organise them!
Over the years, there are so many small interactions, which are remembered fondly with humour, many with embarrassment, and any sense of irritation just fades over time. There was the strike when I was “locked in” with operations management – on the evening before my son’s wedding, when I was supposed to be doing the church flowers. Or the strike when I was having the thatch roof redone and arrived home to piles of old thatch surrounding the house – just one match I thought! Then there was the strike when my vehicle was plastered in ANC stickers - just before I moved into Fish Hoek. The look on my new neighbour’s face was priceless! He warned me that he would not allow me “to bring the neighbourhood down”. It took me less than three months to purchase another property in an area, where I am far more at home.
An incident I recall with some pride, was a telephone call from an ex-employee, whom I had retrenched. She telephoned to tell me how angry she had been with me, but she was being retrenched again - and she just wanted to tell me that she now realised what a good job I had done.
In ostensibly difficult times now, it is too easy to forget the climate prior to these 20 years. Those old enough to remember, will have a better appreciation of the climate of uncertainty that prevailed in 1993, when Hermann Nieuwoudt and I flew to Gauteng on the day of Chris Hani’s funeral. As I recall, we were to meet with an employee to conclude a termination agreement. Before landing we had a conversation on how to handle any threatening incidents that may occur. With my short legs and plump (to put it politely) physique, I didn’t think that I would be able to run away, so I suggested I would use my smattering of isiZulu to talk my way out. Hermann said he was a good runner, so we agreed he would go for help. As it turned out – all went peacefully, we concluded our agreement, and returned home safely.
One of the key issues of industrial relations for me has always been to find out what is actually going on – as opposed to what people say is going on, or what superficially appears to be going on. Now upon reflection, that proves to be invaluable training for today’s post-truth world of “alternative facts”.
Sylvia Hammond Consulting Editor Portal Publishing cc
“And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk more” -Erica Mann Jong. Having studied Mining Engineering at S2 at Wits Technikon, now UJ, seeking for P1 & P2, opportunities were narrow that I was a engaged as a novice for 18 months, decided to cross the floor after realising that the El nino is at its helm and the grass will not be green anytime soon.
That is when I took a shot left……Human Resources became my destined career and I never looked back. Instead i became hungrier that I had to explore ways to keep my head above the water.
Today I have equipped my ER knowledge (Practical labour Law) through GetSmarter at University of Cape Town, now busy with Wits Enterprise (Labour Relations Management) at the University of Witwatersrand with the aim of attaining LDRP in 2019. And most importantly saluting SASLAW for having me as their member. The SASLAW updates are incredible, knowledge worthy and in relation to the industrial challenges…….we need to address burning issues as they arise and 2017 should be different from the past two years.
A big thank you to these saints (Lionel Rheeder, Connie Janse van Rensburg, Sunnyboy Chiloane, Terence Komane, Gerrit Brits, Isaiah Maesela, Zeblon Nsibande, the late Congo Soldati, Mokgadi Mbethe and Peet Herbst who have contributed positively and more constructively that led to this milestone “20th Anniversary”
My Mom Martha, siblings (Diana and Mpho), kids Unathi, Kgaogelo and Moeketsi and the spouse (Maria). You are remarkable.
To the students in higher learning, working class, Employers, Authorities, Unions, Politicians, Entrepreneurs and Religious Leaders “Develop the attitude that there are more reasons why you should succeed than reason why you should fail”
I always reckon that “Never be afraid to try something” Noah was an Amateur; the Titanic was built by professionals.
Walter Maphanga – Anglo American/UASA shop steward
Congratulations to SASLAW on this milestone of its 20th Anniversary.
Bowmans is privileged to be associated with the SASLAW pro bono project. It is one of the most remarkable and successful access to justice projects which we have been part of for many years. The project allows our specialist Employment Lawyers to deliver meaningful pro bono work in line with their area of expertise and for this we are appreciative. Visiting the SASLAW Offices is always a humbling experience. We wish SASLAW all the best in the years to come and look forward to continue working with SASLAW.
Pro Bono Manager, Bowmans
“John Myburgh SC shared his idea of establishing a society for labour law practitioners with me and I participated with him and others in the formation of SASLAW. I then served on the Gauteng committee for a number of years. I remained a member until I recently retired from active legal practice. Along with other practitioners of labour law, SASLAW’s activities, updates and conferences were of great benefit to us as practitioners and to all stakeholders in the healthy practise of labour law . I am grateful to John and all those involved in maintaining the organisation at such a high standard since its inception. May it continue to grow and make a valuable contribution to the practise of labour law.”
"In theory there is no difference between practice and theory. In practice there is," or is there?
Regardless of Kurt Lewin's maxim "there is nothing as practical as a good theory," academics are sometimes accused of functioning in "ivory towers" without a full appreciation of "real-life" challenges experienced in the outside world and legal practice. In the case of labour law, such practice would clearly be completely inappropriate (even more so than most other disciplines, I would submit). One of the (many) achievements of SASLAW is therefore the facilitation and promotion of engagement between members of academia and legal practitioners. As a supporter of SASLAW I haven't had the pleasure of attending many of the seminars hosted in the evenings during the course of the year (seeing that as academics we often engage in night work and although practitioners may think it is difficult to get a date changed amongst colleagues it must be a walk in the park compared to University bureaucracy and the impossibility of rescheduling a LLB/LLM lecture). However, I have at most missed one or two annual SASLAW conferences. There are several reasons for this, including the opportunity to catch-up with old friends (including former students), meeting new people working in the field and the thoughtful programmes of the annual conferences that always include topical matters. SASLAW brings all of us who are concerned about labour law together. I would therefore like to congratulate SASLAW with her 20th anniversary. I wish for SASLAW many more productive and happy years ahead! In the words of a famous national geographic photographer, let's celebrate what's right in the world.
Prof Nicola Smit, North West University. Photo provided
It was 1995 and I had finished my LLB but I could not get articles being male and white and of just average intelligence, so I became a fabric wholesaler with my own shop, but after the industry went to the dogs due to Chinese imports, I decided that I had to give it one more go. I applied at over 40 firms and finally got articles across the way from Snyman Inc. I remember during my articles going to Snyman Inc. and how I wished that I was doing my articles there. When I had completed my one year of articles I was retrenched by my firm who set out that they only had to employ me for one year as per the Law Society Rules. (Which was not true) I then managed to cede my articles and was employed by Perrot Van Niekerk Woodhouse Inc. under the guidance of the great Andre Van Niekerk who is now a Judge of the Labour Court and David Woodhouse who now leads up the Labour Department of Tabacks Inc. I was hooked on Labour Law and loved my work although I was not very good at it and as Andre often said I was a bit misguided.
After a year and a half there I left to work at Nomali Tshabalala attorneys where I was the white sheep or as my colleagues referred to me – “the affirmative action appointee” (tongue-in-cheek). I remember my first task was to defend about 200 employees in Ermelo who were facing 17 charges all of which were dismissible including occupying a mine. The chairperson and the prosecutor were ex-partners of a law firm and my clients were uneducated and only spoke Zulu. Damn was I up against it. I did not have a chance. The Ermelo town hall was the venue of my demise and I thought I would never recover. Leaving Ermelo the next day I drove into a whirlwind and for a second I wished I could be swept up with the mealies and dust that enveloped my car.
The late Nomali Tshabalala had a temper but more than that she spent many hours correcting my drafts and helping me tone my skills as a labour lawyer. After six years, there I decided that I had to move on and was lucky enough to join a partnership who had offices in the same building as the Labour Court. I soon bought out my partners and opened up my own firm. Overheads rose and money trickled in but I persevered. Today I have over 500 clients and employ 6 employees. I have over 1500 court appearances.
In my first main appearance, I appeared before Judge Revelas acting for a company against a poor employee who was dismissed for desertion whereas he was actually in jail at the time. I remember believing that I was winning the argument but then Judge Revelas asked me if I had ever spent a day in jail and then she put it to me that inmates are not given a phonecall and as such the employer should have given the poor employee an audience when he returned to work instead of just dismissing him. I also remember sitting in Judge Molahlehi’s office with my opponent and the Judge giving us great insight into the complexities of Labour Law and issues such as waiver, pre-emption and prescription, which were terms that I believed were foreign to labour law. Another time Judge Van Niekerk made me really proud when he set out to the other side “what do you think of this revelation that Mr. Goldberg has proposed” and my friend Michelle who was with me in Court that day said to me that she was honoured to have been in Court that day when I had argued as I did. Once Judge Lagrange said to me: “Mr Goldberg how much do you charge your clients to catch the lift to the 6th floor, surely it takes less than a couple of minutes?!” But the best was Judge President Waglay who when we had done our introductions before Court said: “one of you is going to last less than five minutes …. “ And I just smiled as I knew my opponents papers were very poor but I forgot that in Court you not only fight your opponent but the Judge as well. Later, when my opponent stood up to argue his case JP Waglay told him to sit down and said to me: “Mr Goldberg you go first”, and then I knew I had no chance. Throughout the years, I have attended at SASLAW lectures and seen SASLAW and Probono grow to be a force to be reckoned with. As Advocate Fourie once said to me when you lose a case that was done on a contingency fee agreement it was as if you did it pro-bono, that is for free as you will not be getting any monies.
No one can quite understand the inner turmoil that a labour lawyer in a fiercely corporate, results-driven environment experiences. For the past few years I have worked "outside" of the traditional labour law sphere. I'm a labour lawyer, and I practice labour law, but I operate on the fringes. I engage with my 'client' and my opponents every day and, often, am called upon to advise on discipline which at times involves the dismissal a colleague I have worked with for years.
The environment is unique and peculiar at the same time in that not even when, after a harrowing day of aggressive cross-examination, the employee concerned asks me for a lift home and I discover that beneath the veneer of the angry, disgruntled employee lies just another person, making ends meet… Much as he discovers that I am just another person, doing the job I have chosen to do, for the same employer we agreed to serve with the same degree of loyalty.
Sure, wizard like precision in waving the interdict wand results in harrowing moments but these experiences require broad shoulders and the heroic sense of humour that labour lawyers possess. Victories are victories, but the best victories, even if they aren't yours, are the ones that evolve labour relations and the jurisprudence in a direction that supports the values entrenched in our Constitution. To me, victory is nothing without progress.
My position, as the Head of Industrial Relations at Toyota South Africa Motors has been to manage employees in such a manner that both disciplinary action is reduced and industrial action is replaced with a more effective negotiation process. Heading this department allows me to keep my litigious roots freshly watered whilst at the same time develop innovative business solutions that marry well with the requirements of labour legislation. Labour law in motion has been deeply rewarding.
Senior Manager: Industrial Relations, Toyota South Africa
MY EXPERIENCES AS A LABOUR LAWYER AND SASLAW PRO BONO OFFICE MOMENTS
I think I could be referred to as an accidental labour lawyer. When I completed my LLB studies, being a labour lawyer was the furthest thing in my mind, I was set to be a corporate lawyer, or so I thought!
It was the epoch making Marikana massacre that changed my legal course and steered my career to the labour course. Whilst everybody blamed politicians and the police force for the senseless killing of miners, I meditated more deeply about the cause of this unfortunate part of our industrial relations and our not so infant democracy anymore.
I visited the blame on the lack of proper bargaining competence by both the trade unions and the employer representative. This is the reason why I then felt I could make a humble contribution to the labour field. Having worked as an Industrial Relations Consultant with one of the most formidable IR company in the country, I got admitted as an attorney and set up my own practice mainly towards labour law as my niche.
Given my initial motivation to be a labour lawyer, I looked for a body that could assist me to practically realise the rights to fair labour practices envisage din Section 23 of the Constitution. Alas, I could look no further than the SASLAW Pro Bono Office.
I plunged deep into this project in 2016, the infant year of my practice. It was at this office that I felt I could make a difference into people’s lives and make my own humble contribution to the indigent masses who are economically marginalised and cannot afford legal representation. It was at this office that I got practical experience in this field which is unparalleled and cannot be quantified.
My first appearance at the Labour Court on a Pro Bono matter was when three (3) individuals approached the Pro Bono Office through the instruction of the Presiding Judge. The matter dealt with the restraint of trade that the Company wished to enforce against the employees.
I consulted with the former employees of the company, put on my gown, determined to make case law!
I entered Court and stated to the Judge that I am now on record and will be appearing for all three (3) Respondent’s. The Learned Judge thanked me for my service to the Court and scheduled a date for the Respondent’s to file their Answering Affidavits and directed that the matter had now become opposed.
I duly drafted the Answering Affidavit and also drafted and filed Heads of Argument. We appeared in Court early the following week and I argued against counsel on the opposing side. The Judgment was handed down at the Labour Court sitting in Randburg at the Land Claims Court. Of course I personally attended to note the judgment myself!
The outcome was in my client’s favour, with costs!
After this judgment there was an air of confidence and swag about me. I felt both proud and fulfilled that I defended successfully my first ever case of restraint of trade.
From this I went further and applied for four (4) contempt of Court applications and all of them were granted.
I also opposed a Review Application and went an extra mile and enforced the client’s Arbitration Award which ultimately led to the Applicant settling the matter and withdrawing its Review Application.
The above cases are one of the highlights of my experience at the Pro Bono Office, the cherry on top for my infant practice and myself personally was when in December 2016, SASLAW awarded my practice as the Firm with Most Hours.
I can say proudly that SASLAW has increased by knowledge bank through its very insightful seminars and has also afforded me with experience that without it, probably would have gained with a number of years in the practice but gained it in just a year at the Pro bono Office.
We will continue to partner with SASLAW in the future to ensure that the right to fair labour practices are not just codified in the Constitution and find expression in the Labour Relations Act, but that a normal Joe Soap can be a recipient of this Constitutional imperative and have confidence in our legal system.
Notes from the attendees of the Women’s Breakfast in Johannesburg – 30th March 2017
Always inspiring, always knowledgeable, always fun! Thank you SASLAW. To the next 20! – Sarah Odenaal, Lauren Spence, Telisha Steenkamp. LabourNet.
Congratulations to SASLAW on 20 years of inspiration and education. Thank you for the difference you make in bettering the field and its professionals, and for inspiring ambitious spirits to always climb higher and aspire to be greater. – Adri Louw, LabourNet.
Thank you for the amazing contribution which SASLAW has made to the furtherance of knowledge. Thank you for inspiring me as a legal professional and a woman to learn more and to expand on what has been learnt. Here’s to another 20 years! – Shameera Angamia, Hannelie Jansen van Ransburg, LabourNet.
We celebrate SASLAW’s 20th, to the next 20 years! – Danel van der Westerhuizen, LabourNet
Congrats SASLAW! Here’s to the next 20 years of inspiration, innovation and increased success. I think I may have been with you since day 1 and intend to stay with you for many more years. All the best. – Mohsina Chenia, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.
Well done SASLAW and all the best for the coming years. I am inspired by the women who are this industry and are brave enough to tackle the issues faced by women everyday – Phathisha Maxengana, LabourNet.
Happy 20 years SASLAW! May your organisation achieve even more in the coming years. I always leave your seminars inspired and with renewed passion for the legal profession. Thank you! Fathima Mahomed, Liberty Group.
Congrats SASLAW on 20 wonderful years. Here’s to wishing you many more years. Your contribution to the Labour law landscape is greatly appreciated. Thank you for the inspiring seminars and bringing us together to network and learn from each other. Yours in labour law! – Linda Jacobs, Liberty Group.
Congratulations SASLAW. May the next 20 years be very successful and may you strive to great heights! – Celeste von Helden, LabourNet.
Congratulations, wishing you all the best in your future endeavours! Kim Davis, LabourNet.
Congratulations SASLAW on 20 years of inspiring, educating of fostering networking for labour lawyers! I have loved being a part of the SASLAW family! Jo Withaar.
SASLAW thank you for the extremely nice and informative experience as always. We all love being a part of it. Will keep on attending these seminars! Thank you!! Desire Human.
Congrats on 20 years of service!! Tembisile Semaushu.
Thank you for an amazing association of wonderful, inspiring personalities! – Shamima Gaibie.
SASLAW – 20 years! Wow! Thank you for opening your doors, hearts to all of us. Thank you for embracing diversity and your sincere care for legal eagles! – Denine Smit.
Well done SASLAW! 20 years, what a privilege to be a part of such an inspiring organisation, where the members make a real difference, especially to those who can’t help themselves – Leigh Allardyce.
Excellent information at events which I can take back to the home and work environment. Diana van Niekerk, Novas Labour Relations
SASLAW has been very inspirational and broadened the way of thinking and general knowledge. – Samantha & Sammy, LabourNet
Always great to attend a SASLAW session. – Elzanie & Jessica, LabourNet
Happy Birthday SASLAW! May the next 100 years be as effective and awesome as the last 20 years! Natalie Rautenbach, LabourNet.
SASLAW seminars are always insightful. Thank you for your 20-year contribution towards the industry – Chantelle & Hanneke, LabourNet.
Happy Birthday SASLAW!! Thank you for the insightful seminars. I look forward to your growing success. Vasanti Srineevassan.
Thank you for the seminars – they are very helpful – Vanessa De Carvalleo.
As a member of SASLAW for several years, I have learnt and grown from my association with members. I find it very helpful and useful. – Isa Vorster, Stegmanns Inc.
I joined SASLAW as an appeal court judge’s associate. SASLAW immersed me with the latest and most pertinent case law which excited me. I was hooked and put my hand up to assist SASLAW in growing bigger and better. I am honoured to have been on the panel employing the dynamic fiery red head queen of SASLAW. What a gem to have found Clare. Thank you for your work and effort, you are amazing and our centre pivot. You have empowered us and all the leaders at the helm whom I have watched lead SASLAW from strength to strength. Our wingspan now touches Africa – I am so proud to be a part of you. Congratulations on achieving your 20th year, may the next 20 years be phenomenal. – Natasha Moni
Happy 20th Birthday! Thank you all for the opportunity to connect, learn and grow using each other’s strength, experience and empathy. To the next 20 years! – Tessa Kassel
Congratulations on 20 years! Here’s to 20 more! – Deirdre Venter