Please note that this pertains to South African Labour Relations and Best Practice requirements.
The question on the table is whether Mike was ‘reasonable’ in requesting George to drive ‘in convoy” as opposed to George driving his usual ‘Horse and Carriage’.
The CCMA Arbitrator said that in order to answer the question, which was “whether an employer may instruct an employee to perform tasks allegedly falling outside of his job description”, the answer would depend on:
a. what the terms and/or conditions of George’s contract are;
b. what the nature of the task that George was asked to perform is;
c. the circumstances in which the instruction was given, and
d. what Mike’s operational requirements are.
SATAWU, being the union that George belongs to, said that they had relied on the document (being the job description) which listed the duties and tasks of a “Horse and Carriage” driver. Acting as a ‘convoy driver’ was not listed on the job description, therefore in their opinion, George did not have to perform this task.
Mike stated that the Job Descriptions, with their list of duties, etc., were actually complied during an excise where he was trying to grade a list of duties and the salaries that were most appropriate for those duties. So each Job description that was compiled was mostly used as a gauge and to determine appropriate wage rates rather than to constitute an extensive and comprehensive Job Description.
To prove the point, SATAWU requested that Mike produce the minutes of the relevant meeting, where the task team or committee, who were setting the job grades, met. Apart from that, the union did not call any witnesses or even disagree with the statement made by Mike.
The arbitrator agreed with Mike’s statement regarding the Job Descriptions, stating that the document (Job Description) did not have ‘contractual force’.
When all the documents were submitted, evidencing that the Job Descriptions were being used to rate wages, the arbitrator discovered that the “Horse & Carriage” drivers had, in the past been requested to perform ‘convoy’ related work and that they had in fact done so.
The Arbitrator found that “employees do not have a vested right to preserve their working obligations completely unchanged” from the moment that they are appointed. You see as Businesses grow and expand, so do the requirements that the Business needs for their employees to meet their obligations to their clients.
Mike had also presented his “Employee Handbook” which he had issued to all of his employees, George included.
The Arbitrator referred to this handbook, that stated: “employees shall obey the legitimate instruction of the supervision of any employee in authority over them”.
The union argued that George had a right to lodge a grievance over what he perceived as a duty that was not his.
Again the Arbitrator referred to the handbook, which further stated that “should a grievance be felt with regard to the instruction, representation may be made to supervision or higher authority, but in the first instance the instruction shall be obeyed.”
Clearly, Mike had all his ducks in a row and clearly, neither George nor his union had followed laid down procedures.
Next week we will see how the story ends.