A very interesting judgement has been delivered by Kwazulu-Natal High Court in South Africa.
The La Lucia mall [owned by Growthpoint] had Dischem as their tenants, in other words Dischem had a shop in La Lucia mall. The employees of Dischem started picketing in the basement parking entrance of the mall. That caused nuisance. ‘Shouting, singing, chanting, ululating, blowing whistles and horns and banging various instruments and objects was amplified by the covered parking garage. The noise disturbed and intimidated members of the public and disrupted normal business operations in the immediate vicinity of the basement parking entrance.’
A specialist recorded that the noise at the pay station in the parking garage exceeded the ambient level by almost 30 decibels. This exceeded the legal limit of 85 decibels set by the regulation governing noise-induced hearing loss.
The High Court observed that ‘tolerance levels are exceeded when Growthpoint [Owners of the Mall] and its tenants can not conduct their business. The noise emanating from the picketers was acceptably high; it disturbed tenants and the public. The evidence of the expert and tenants of Growthpoint show that a persistent, loud noise was intolerable. Growthpoint, its tenants and customers were inconvenienced and prejudiced. Businesses not party to the labour dispute suffered a loss of revenue as the public took its custom elsewhere. The noise of the picketers also created an unhealthy environment and impeded Growthpoint and its tenants from using their properties….
…In the opinion of the Court, SACCAWU and its members can exercise their rights reasonably without interfering with Growthpoint, its tenants and the public. Interference with their rights to the extent that tenants cannot conduct business and in fact lose business is an unacceptable and unjustifiable limitation on their right to their property, to trade and to a healthy environment.
The limitation on SACCAWU and its members is only to lower their noise level. They are not precluded from demonstrating, picketing, carrying placards, singing and chanting softly.’ [Unquote]
With hundreds of malls coming up in the city, and mall employees gradually unionising, this judgement will have to be borne in mind by all concerned.
Read the full text of the judgement here.