Be cautious when representing a fellow colleague during a disciplinary enquiry or negotiation. In BIFAWU & Another v Mutual & Federal Insurance Co Ltd the Labour Appeal Court held the following:
“An employee, even when s/he is representing a fellow employee at a disciplinary enquiry or arbitration hearing, owes certain duties to an employer such as honesty. … After all, when an employee represents a fellow employee, s/he does so precisely in that capacity of being a fellow employee. The fellowship does not modify the employment relationship between the employer and the representing employee.
… the right and duty to represent a fellow employee to the best of one’s ability is not an unbridled license; it is constrained by the duty to do so honestly and with integrity. Without honesty on the part of the representatives of the parties, the system would be unviable.”
Emerging from the above is the fact that an employee cannot be victimised if he represents a colleague effectively, with integrity and honesty as there is an obligation to the employer to conduct oneself in a responsible manner.
Should one engage in disorderly or disrespectful conduct, discipline can be meted out effectively. The test is whether a representative’s conduct can be said to fall within the realms of fair and acceptable bargaining conduct and whether it can be said to be reasonably related to the required performance.
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