As an Employer in South Africa, you may have received a call from an Official requesting your mandate to settle a dispute referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA). This can be confusing and even frustrating, especially if you already have legal representation, feel you have a good case or are unsure about the process. However, it is essential to understand why these calls are made and your options in responding to them.
The CCMA is a statutory body that handles labour disputes in South Africa. Suppose an Employee feels that their rights have been violated or that their Employer has unfairly treated them. In that case, they can refer the matter to the CCMA for Mediation, Conciliation, or Arbitration.
When a case is referred to the CCMA, a Commissioner is appointed to oversee the process. The Presiding Commissioner's role is to facilitate negotiations between the parties and help them reach a mutually acceptable resolution. This can include financial compensation, reinstatement of employment, or other remedies.
In some cases, the Commissioner may feel that a settlement can be reached, negating the need for the Arbitration process. They may therefore contact the Employer directly or through an Official to discuss the possibility of a settlement. These calls aim to further discuss the dispute at hand, highlight potential risks in proceeding with the Arbitration, and explore the possibility of a settlement.
It is important to note that the contact made with the Employer during the Conciliation process is not an attempt to pressure them into settling. Instead, this is a legitimate part of the CCMA process and aims to resolve the dispute in the most efficient and effective way possible.
If you receive a call from an Official, CCMA Commissioner or Case Officer, it is important to be prepared. One should have a clear understanding of the dispute and the options available to them. If you are represented, you should consult with your Employers Organisation Official and consider all potential risks and factors surrounding the case and the best route forward.
If you decide to engage in settlement discussions, it is vital to approach the process in good faith. This means being open to compromise and willing to listen to the other party's perspective. It is also important to understand that a settlement is not always possible and that you may need to proceed to Arbitration if a resolution cannot be reached.
Ultimately, the CCMA process aims to promote fairness and equity in the workplace. While settlement negotiations can be frustrating and stressful, they are a necessary part of the process. By engaging in good faith negotiations and working towards a mutually acceptable solution, Employers can help ensure that disputes are resolved fairly and efficiently and that any potential risk that goes along with Arbitration is mitigated.
Originally published 12 May 2023
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.