FAWU & others v Rainbow Chicken Farms (2000) 21 ILJ 615 (LC)

Principle:

In circumstances where there was a collective refusal to work on a Muslim religious holiday, the conduct did not constitute a strike because there was no demand.

Facts

The employees were butchers employed by the company in its farming operations. They had been employed to slaughter chickens according to Halaal standards. All the butchers were Muslims and declined to work on a Muslim religious holiday but which was not a gazetted public holiday. They were all subsequently dismissed. The court rejected the company's contention that the employees' conduct amounted to a strike. Even though their actions were collective, the employees did not conduct themselves to remedy a grievance or to resolve a dispute. They made no demand to the company. The employees simply refused to work on the public holiday because of their religious beliefs.

Extract from the judgement

[24]   I am of the view that even though their actions were collective, the individual applicants did not conduct themselves as they did to remedy a grievance or to resolve a dispute. They made no demand. The respondent was also not placed under the type of pressure which, for instance, would accompany a wage demand prior to a strike. The respondent was also not placed in a position where, if it acceded to a demand of the individual applicants, that they would resume work. That would be the case in a strike. A strike would then be called off if the demand was met or the grievance was remedied or the dispute was resolved. This was not the case in this matter. The individual applicants simply refused to work on Eid because of their religious beliefs. Their conduct was similar to the conduct of any employee who decided to be absent from work for whatever reason. The fact that the individual applicants gave prior notice of their absenteeism makes no difference.