What is the CCMA?

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The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration CCMA is a dispute settlement body. Basically, if someone believes that their dismissal was unfair, the CCMA with help settle the issue with their employer. The CCMA does not belong to any political party or business and functions completely independently. The CCMA also offers advice and training for various different subjects.

The CCMA handles disputes regarding the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and Employment Equity Act. This includes:

  1. Trade union activities at the workplace;
  2. Dismissals;
  3. Unfair labour practices; and
  4. Discrimination based on prohibited grounds.

An unfair labour practice means any unfair treatment of an employee by an employer at the workplace. This also extends to job applicants.

The following are examples of unfair labour practices:

  1. Unfair suspension of a worker;
  2. Refusal to reinstate a worker if it was agreed; and
  3. Unfair discrimination.

Every situation and dispute would be different. The CCMA can help you only if your dismissal was unfair. You may not have received proper notice or a fair hearing, for example. However, if the dismissal was due to your own misconduct and your received affair hearing, then the CCMA cannot help you. If you always came in to work late, for example, and your employer dismissed you only after a fair hearing.

How to refer a dispute

These are the steps to follow for disputes, according to the CCMA:

Step 1: If you have a labour problem, it is very important that you take steps immediately. In the case of an unfair dismissal dispute, you have only 30 days from the date on which the dispute arose to open a case, if the case is an unfair labour practice, you have only 90 days and, with discrimination cases, you have six months.

Step 2: If you have decided to lodge a dispute, you need to complete a CCMA case referral form (also known as a LRA Form 7.11.). These forms are available from the CCMA offices, Department of Labour and the CCMA website.

Step 3: Once you have completed the form, you need to ensure that a copy is delivered to the other party and you must be able to prove that a copy was sent. Acceptable methods include faxing a copy (keep the fax transmission slip), sending it by registered mail (keep the postal receipt), send it by courier (keep proof) or deliver in person (ask the person receiving it to sign for it).

Step 4: You do not have to bring the referral form to the CCMA in person. You may also fax the form or post it. Make sure that a copy of the proof that the form had been served on the other party is also enclosed.

Step 5: The CCMA will inform both parties as to the date, time and venue of the first hearing.

Step 6: Usually the first meeting is called conciliation. Only the parties, trade union or employers’ organisation representatives (if a party to the dispute is a member) and the CCMA commissioner will attend. The purpose of the hearing is to reach an agreement acceptable to both parties. Legal representation is not allowed.

Step 7: If no agreement is reached, the commissioner will issue a certificate to that effect. Depending on the nature of the dispute, the case may be referred to the CCMA for arbitration or the Labour Court as the next step.

Step 8: In order to have an arbitration hearing, you have to complete a request for arbitration form, (also known as LRA Form 7.13.). A copy must be served on the other party (same as in step 3). Arbitration should be applied for within three months from the date on which the commissioner issued the certificate.

Step 9: Arbitration is a more formal process and evidence, including witnesses and documents, may be necessary to prove your case. Parties may cross-examine each other. Legal representation may be allowed. The commissioner will make a final and binding decision, called an arbitration award, within 14 days.

Step 10: If a party does not comply with the arbitration award, it may be made an order of the Labour Court.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Please feel free to contact Brian Kahn for further information or specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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