KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport v Hoosen & 23 others (D259/11) [2015] ZALCD 56 (17 September 2015) per Whitcher J.

On review of an award the Labour Court directed the employer to reduce the rank of an employee to Principal Provincial Inspector but not to reduce his salary.  The commissioner had found that the promotion of M to the rank of Chief Provincial Inspector was unfair towards 24 other employees.  M did not meet the minimum requirements for even the lower post used as a ‘launching platform’ for his promotion.  So M’s rise in rank was not in accordance with prescripts regulating promotions in the public service.  M’s promotion above the 24 employees was  arbitrary, irregular, unfair and the product of a quirk of fate.  The commissioner did not set aside M’s ‘promotion’ but ordered the employer to remedy the unfair labour practice towards the 24 employees ‘by initiating a recruitment process’ for the appointment of another Chief Provincial Inspector.

Excerpt with privacy protected

[21]     The commissioner’s finding, not particularly strongly challenged in argument by the department, was that this alone was sufficient to render Mr. M’s promotion unfair.   The first respondents were wrongly blocked in future from ascending to a CPI position because Mr. M now occupied it.   This finding is not unreasonable whether or not, at the time Mr. M was promoted, a vacant post existed.   It seems logical that with Mr.  M’s occupying a senior rank in PTEU, the career-prospects of his juniors will suffer some limitation.  In addition, Mr. M’s colleagues will, on a day to day basis, have to treat someone who has no right to command them, as their superior officer.  This is not a trivial issue in a uniformed and rank-conscious environment such as law enforcement.  This problem is confirmed by Mr. M’s original motivation to have his special operations unit rank ‘transferred’ to him, which was that his colleagues considered him their equal and declined to salute him.