The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), was established as an independent, apolitical dispute resolution body in terms of the Labour Relations Act (LRA). CCMA processes aim to promote fair labour practices and resolve labour disputes in the workplace. An employee can refer a dispute to the CCMA on the basis of dismissal, wages and working conditions, unfair labour practice, workplace changes and discrimination. Most cases referred to the CCMA relate to unfair dismissal.
When can the employee approach the CCMA?
- In the case of alleged unfair dismissal, the dispute must be referred tot he CCMA within 30 days after the date of dismissal.
- If a dispute relates to unfair labour practice, it must be referred to the CCMA within 90 days after the unfair incident, or within 90 days after the employee becomes aware of the unfair labour practice.
- If the dispute relates to discrimination, it must be referred to the CCMA within six days for conciliation and if it cannot be resolved, be referred to the Labour Court.
CCMA processes: the three basics
- Conciliation: This is an informal process where a commissioner is appointed to meet with the parties to a dispute within 30 days after the referral and explore ways to resolve the dispute by mutual agreement. Separate meetings between the commissioner and each party may also be held. If the case is settled, a settlement agreement is signed and the dispute is resolved.
- Arbitration: This is a hearing process where the parties have the opportunity to state their case. During the process, oral evidence is presented as well as any other forms of evidence in support of a party’s case. Thereafter the commissioner will issue an arbitration awards within 14 days. An arbitration award is binding and the equivalent of a court ruling.
- Conciliation/Arbitration (“Con/Arb”): This is an ongoing process where conciliation and arbitration follow directly after each other on the same day. If conciliation (settlement) is not reached, arbitration will take place on the same day. Both the employer and employee can object to the ongoing process on the same day. However, the ongoing process is mandatory in matters concerning:
- dismissal for any reason relating to a probation period;
- any unfair labour practice relating to a probation period;
- the failure of any payment in respect of the national minimum wage.
Who can represent an employer at the CCMA?
CCMA processes can be intimidating and it is a good idea to get expert advice. An employer can be represented by any employee/director of the business, or by an office bearer/official of a registered employers’ organisation (such as the LWO). The only time when a legal practitioner, such as e.g. an attorney, will be allowed during the proceedings, is when:
- The commissioner and all the other parties agree to it.
- The commissioner concludes that it is unreasonable to expect a party to handle the dispute without legal representation.
The LWO is registered as an employers’ organisation with the Department of Employment and Labour and automatically has the right to represent LWO members in forums such as the CCMA, Bargaining Councils and the Labour Court.
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