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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

COSATU congratulates the CCMA on its 10th Anniversary

08 - 11 - 06

On 11 November 1996 our new labour dispensation gave birth to one of the most important and critical labour market institutions in South Africa  the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). It has touched the lives of many South Afri cans in one way or another. It has become a household name to millions of organised and unorganised workers who continue to face injustice from their employers.

Its 10th anniversary is a significant milestone. The CCMA was born in an extremely hostile and adversarial workplace environment, with industrial relations strongly rooted in favour of employers. The CMMA was a welcome relief to an inefficient dispute reso lution system that, before 1996, had a settlement rate of 17%, compared to an average of 70% today. This also included the high cost and lengthy time in referring dismissal disputes to the Industrial Court, which delayed social justice and equality for wor kers.

The CCMAs most important achievement is its accessibility to everyone irrespective of race, class or social status. It has handled more the 1.3 million cases since its inception, with an average of 500 referrals per day, processing approximately 10 000 ca ses per month. Other key achievements include:

Shorter and much quicker dispute resolution with an average of 26 days taken to conduct a conciliation (30 days per statutory requirement) On average arbitrations take 50 days to complete from the date of referrals, with most awards issued in 9 days Increasing number of conciliation-arbitration cases (41% of case load) to finalise referrals much faster. 71% of thus is completed in one day. Accreditation and support to Bargaining Councils, including support during Section 189A facilitation processes and interventions in major industrial dispute.

Though these achievements are important, 10 years on a number of challenges remain.

These includes the disparity between regional offices of the CCMA in providing efficient and improved dispute resolution services to workers. While the vast majority of CCMA centres have excelled in service delivery, improved measures should be taken to de al with inefficient regions.

Other challenges include:

Ensuring the dispute resolution process within the CCMA remains simple, with minimum of legal formalities and quick resolution for workers seeking justice. Tightening the participation of lawyers and legal experts at the CCMA. This must be strengthened to ensure that existing loopholes are tightened.

With more than two thirds of arbitration cases in favour of workers, this has resulted in a drastic increase of review applications at the Labour Court by employers. These applications, in most cases, are largely intended to undermine a fair process of adj udication, delay justice for workers and incur huge costs for the worker and unions.

A much tighter test for review should be considered to prevent frivolous referrals of review to the Labour Court. In most cases the substance of the case is disputed and not the narrow test outlined in the LRA. Consideration should be given to high penalti es imposed where frivolous referrals for review are being found or re-enforcing the narrow grounds for reviewal.

The high number of applications for the enforcement of arbitration awards in terms of Section 143 of the LRA. This has increased by more than nine fold since 2004. Again, this undermines the principle of social justice and having a quick and easy dispute r esolution mechanism. The consequence of this that many workers having being unfairly dismissed and re-instated or compensated through an arbitration award must now pay for the enforcement of their own award!

Gearing the CCMA in dealing with the increasing number of vulnerable or atypical workers who are referring cases to the institution. These cases become increasingly complex to deal with.

Despite these challenges the CCMA remains an essential part of our working life and continues to be supported by COSATU. We extend our congratulations to the executive director, management, commissioners and other staff members  we commend the sterling wo rk being done.

Happy Anniversary CCMA!