The recent Constitutional Court matter of Myathaza v Johannesburg Metropolitan Bus Services (SOC) Limited t/a Metrobus and Others (2016) ZACC 49 (15 December 2016) is of importance. The employee was dismissed in 2009, the arbitrator ordered reinstatement. The employer took the award on review, but did not drive the matter to its conclusion. This might have been tactic in the hope that the matter would simply die and disappear.

Be that as it may, in assessing the matter the Court held that the Labour Relations Act must take precedence over any conflicting legislation and even if were to be found that the Prescription Act takes precedence, an arbitration award does not fall within the meaning of “debt” and therefore cannot prescribe.

The employer was ordered to reinstate the employee. This outcome must not fall on deaf ears – employers must be acutely aware that dragging matters out for longer than 3 years does not allow them to avoid the consequences of any award.