Not understanding the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and its processes can deny the public use of the accessible and low-cost service the commission renders and may cause some frustration. The CCMA is an independent body established by law to carry out a range of workplace dispute resolution and prevention functions.
The CCMA is open to use by both employees and employers in dispute (disputes can also be referred by unions or employer organisations) over matters such as:
- Freedom of association;
- Organisational rights;
- Collective agreements;
- Mutual interest issues;
- Unfair dismissals;
- Unfair labour practices; and
- Unfair discrimination.
Before referring a dispute to the CCMA, there are few steps that must take place first:
- Parties need to attempt to settle the dispute on their own by following and completing all internal company procedures aimed at resolving workplace disputes;
- Parties must ensure that all the legal requirements are met;
- Parties are also encouraged to determine the strengths of the case before referring the dispute to the CCMA if it is a dismissal dispute, to avoid referring cases that have no strengths. This can be done by discussing the matter with a union official or asking a university law clinic for advice;
- Consider whether the dispute falls under the CCMA’s jurisdiction and refer it appropriately.
Examples of issues not covered by the CCMA are disputes over non-payment of salaries/wages (handled by the department of labour); disputes covered by collective agreements and disputes covered by a bargaining council or a private dispute resolution body; disputes involving independent contractors – the CCMA only covers employees as defined in the Labour Relations Act.
If it is a dismissal dispute, make sure you complete the required forms and refer your dispute to the CCMA for conciliation within 30 days of the date of dismissal or, if it is a later date, within 30 days of the employer finally deciding to dismiss you or uphold your dismissal.
If it is an unfair labour practice dispute, refer your dispute to the CCMA within 90 days of the unfair labour practice or within 90 days of you becoming aware of what you believe is an unfair labour practice. The 30 or 90 days are calculated by counting all days, including weekends and public holidays. It is critical that you ensure that you refer your case within the stipulated timelines.
You must complete and serve the CCMA referral form (LRA 7.11) correctly. You may ask your nearest CCMA office or employers’ organisation to help you complete the form.
How to serve and file the CCMA referral form
The completed CCMA referral form must first be sent to the other party. This can be done by handing a copy of the form to the other party; by faxing the form to the other party; or by sending a copy of the form to the address of the other party by registered mail.
When filing the referral form with the CCMA, proof that you have sent the form to the other party must be attached. This proof can consist of a copy of the receipt signed by or on behalf of the other party, which must include the name and title of the person who received the form and the place, time and date of receipt (if it was hand delivered).
When the notice is faxed a copy of the fax transmission report showing that all the pages of the form were faxed to the other party can be used. If sent by registered post a copy of the registered mail slip is sufficient proof.
On receipt of the case, the CCMA will schedule a hearing date and both parties will be advised of the hearing date in writing.
By Cindy Ross