Have you ever wondered if your company falls within a certain industry? Have you ever found yourself in a situation were two National Employment Councils claim that your corporate falls within their ambits? Well, you are not alone.
Godfrey Tapedza v ZERA and NEC for the Energy Industry is a Supreme Court case that involved a dispute over whether the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) falls within the energy industry. The law outlined by the Supreme Court, in this case, is crucial for anyone facing a predicament like the one mentioned in my opening statement. In this article, these elementary principles will be discussed.
A Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was reached by players in the energy industry. ZERA at one point indicated that it had complied with the CBA. The regulatory authority then decided at a later stage, that it was not a player in the energy industry and thus not bound by the CBA.
The Labour Court ruled that it was not a member of the energy industry and thus not bound by the CBA.
The dispute was brought before the Supreme Court and it boiled down to whether ZERA fell within the energy industry.
Definition of the energy industry
The first important finding that the court made was that the definition of the energy industry did not include “regulation” of the energy industry. The definition included persons involved in the “generation, procurement, distribution, production and transmission of energy to consumers thereof”.
Using the various cannons of interpretation of legislation, the court concluded that ZERA did not fall within the ambit of the energy industry. It was not bound by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The rules of legislative interpretation utilised by the Supreme Court will be assessed next.
The golden rule of statutory interpretation
The court argued that the ordinary grammatical meaning of words in a statute should be followed unless doing so would lead to some form of inconsistency with the intention of the legislature.
It then concluded that the words in the statute were clear and unambiguous and required no purposive interpretation. Persons listed in the legislation were the ones covered by it. Such persons, the court argued, did not include those involved in the “regulation” of the industry.
Expressio uninius rule
This is a rule of interpretation according to which the inclusion of one class of things automatically excludes all other members of the class.
Using this rule, the court realised that fact that the definition of the energy industry included a certain class of activities. It followed that another class of activities had been excluded. This rule thus pointed to the fact that the “regulation” of the energy industry was excluded by the legislature.
The intention of the legislature
Related to the rules indicated above, the court pointed that if the legislature had intended that ZERA be a player in the energy sector it would have expressly provided for that.
The court, inevitably, concluded that ZERA is not a player in the energy sector and dismissed the appeal with costs.
This judgement was well reasoned. The definition of the energy sector was clear and unambiguous and required no purposive interpretation.
As mentioned earlier on, the principles outlined in this dispute can easily be applied by any other employer wondering which industry his or her operation falls under.