Eleven Western Cape farmworkers failed on Tuesday in a bid to fight their dismissal in the Labour Court in Cape Town.

Labour Court judge Anton Steenkamp said their dismissal from a Robertson farm on January 21 last year had not been referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Thus, the court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter.

The workers and their union, the Commercial Stevedoring Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU), were ordered to pay the costs of the respondent, Steytler Boerdery.

The applicants are Daniel Sambo, Jacques Jaftha, Andries Ambrose, Dawid Jooste, Salmon Swarts, Daniel Jonas, Linda Afrika, Adean Bruntjies, Christian Paulsen, and Esmeralda and Donovan Grootboom.

They had referred a dispute to the CCMA on January 8 last year after their employer had locked them out. Conciliation of that dispute failed and was referred to the court.

However, the workers never referred a dispute over their actual dismissal on January 21 to the CCMA.

Farming towns across the province came to a standstill during a workers’ protest against poor wages and harsh living conditions towards the end of 2012 and the start of 2013.

According to employer David Steytler, the 11 workers took part in six unprotected strikes in two months within that period.

When they went on an unprotected strike for the seventh time, he locked them out until they agreed to give a written undertaking to stop striking. When they refused, he lifted the lock-out and asked them to return to work.

They stayed away and he issued two ultimatums. The workers continued to strike and he notified them of a disciplinary hearing on January 17.

Neither the workers nor their trade union representative attended the hearing, chaired by a human resources practitioner. They were dismissed a few days later.