Similar needs: The individual applicants were all employed in the Specialised Cargo Handling Unit of G4S at the OR Tambo International Airport and were dismissed for a reason based on ‘operational requirements’.  With regard to the meaning of ‘similar needs’ in the s 213 definition of ‘operational requirements’ it is “accepted that this concept is broad enough to include factors that generally have economic consequences for the enterprise. For the purposes of the definition in section 213 of the LRA, these factors will ordinarily be determined by circumstances of each case”.  It was accepted that the need to be competitive was not in dispute.

Satawu obo Dinindaza & 29 others v G4S Aviation Secure Solutions (JS49/12) [2016] ZALCJHB 10 (13 January 2016) per Tlhotlhalemaje J.


“[21] In regards to the rationale for the retrenchments, when regard is had to the principles set out in the authorities cited in this judgment, the particular reasons for the retrenchment in my view falls squarely within the realm of economic reasons contemplated within the meaning of ‘operational requirements’.  These reasons related to the financial management and competitiveness of the enterprise (within the meaning of ‘similar reasons’), and the LRA allows an employer to restructure an enterprise in order to ensure its competitiveness and survival, let alone maximise its profits as espoused in General Food Industries Ltd v FAWU.

[22] I am thus satisfied that there was indeed a fair reason for the dismissal, and that the retrenchments, which were based on the respondent’s need to remain competitive and profitable, were a rational and logical decision.  Other than contending that it was not permissible for an employer simply to retrench in order to remain competitive, the applicants have not advanced any cogent argument that indicated that the decision was not in any manner commercially rational.  There was no evidence adduced nor arguments advanced to demonstrate that the respondent had acted in bad faith when effecting the retrenchments, or that it had sought to serve an ulterior motive.

[23] The contention that the retrenchments were in response to the respondent’s failure to get an agreement on the cancellation of the relevant clause of the collective agreement cannot be sustainable in the light of the acknowledgement by the applicants that the primary reason for the retrenchments was that the respondent needed to reduce its labour costs in order to remain competitive.  Whether or not it had obtained an agreement on the cancellation of the clause was immaterial as it had acted within its rights in cancelling the clause under the provisions of section 23(4) of the LRA.

[24] I am further satisfied that the decision to retrench was not only aimed ensuring the respondent’s survival but also at preserving jobs in the light of the initial number of potential retrenchees identified as opposed to employees ultimately retrenched.  I am also satisfied that to the extent that the individual applicants were retrenched in order for the respondent to remain competitive in the industry it operated in, such a decision was fair, as it was informed and justified by a proper and valid commercial or business rationale.

[25] In the light of the above conclusions, I am satisfied that the respondent has on the balance of probabilities, discharged the onus placed on it in proving that there was indeed a commercial rationale to invoke the provisions of section 189, read together with section 189A of the LRA.  It therefore follows that the applicants’ claim should be dismissed.  I have further had regard to considerations of law and fairness, and I am satisfied that there is no basis for a cost order to be made in this case.”