Briefing by CCMA on Annual Report

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Labour

28 October 2002
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LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
29 October 2002
BRIEFING BY CCMA ON ANNUAL REPORT

Documents Handed Out:
CCMA Annual Report 2001/2002


SUMMARY
The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration briefed the Committee about the work of the CCMA. Initially, the CCMA had focused on dispute resolution but currently, the approach was more on dispute prevention. This is carried through with the use of bargaining councils at the workplace so that disputes do not have to go as far as the CCMA when they can be prevented much earlier on. A big challenge has been the increased caseload since the establishment of the body whereas the human resources within the body have been greatly diminishing.

MINUTES
Mr Manie pointed out that the Committee would want further clarity on issues relating to the CCMA that have been reported in the media.

The Chairperson asked Mr Les Kettledas: Deputy Director-General, Department of Labour, to comment on any issues pertaining to the CCMA.

Mr Kettledas pointed out that Mr Molahlehi was new to the body and is coming in at a time when the CCMA is facing the challenge of implementing its programmes. The Chair advised the CCMA that in meeting its challenges, the Committee was at hand to help where needed.

Briefing by the CCMA
Mr Edwin Molahlehi: Director of the CCMA, reiterated that he was new to the CCMA though he had played a significant role in its establishment. They would be revisiting the vision and mission of the body through a strategic management meeting at the CCMA the following day. He pointed out that so far, the establishment of the CCMA has ensured that workplace disputes have been drastically reduced.

There is a major focus on dispute resolution: the Industrial Court has since lost its legitimacy as an apartheid era institution. The current emphasis is now on dispute prevention with dispute prevention a key measure in dispute resolution. Dispute resolution becomes a nightmare if dispute prevention mechanisms are weak. A case in point here was in Zimbabwe where the backlog was found to stretch back to four years for some unresolved cases.

He noted that institution building pertains mainly to the use of support mechanisms such as bargaining councils as part of dispute prevention. There were complaints about service delivery at the CCMA. As a result, the previous director had instituted a programme called ‘back to basics’ in order to improve service delivery in the organisation. He also pointed out that in comparing the workload to available resources, the caseload has been increasing since they first started whereas their human resources for instance has been decreasing.

On the dispute resolution caseload, Mr Molahlehi pointed out that from 1996/97, this has increased over the years up to January 2002. Their projections indicate that these are going to keep on increasing.

Mr Molahlehi gave an overview of operations, new referrals are the highest at 110 639 and pre-conciliations the lowest at 5459. The highest referral rate is in Gauteng. Adding to this, Mr Molahlehi pointed out that in Gauteng, they have launched the flagship project which is an alignment of all the Gauteng Departments to the head office. The result has been that Gauteng is performing better than ever by processing the cases at a faster pace. He informed the Committee that the highest dispute referral by case was in the retail sector at 20%.

With respect to the breakdown of commissioners per province, the delivery of social justice is being approached with a focus on the distribution of commissioners, particularly those on a part-time basis, to the rural areas to enhance service delivery. The management of the CCMA monitors the demographic profile of their workforce on a regular basis in order to comply with government regulations. On dispute resolution issues, members of the public fall victim to bogus consultants who claim to have the know-how to represent them in disputes only to disappear once they have been paid a fee. The main objectives of the dispute prevention approach include reducing referrals to the CCMA and improving the quality of those referred through supporting targeted CCMA users.

Lastly, Mr Molahlehi informed the Committee that dispute prevention for 2002/2003 will focus on the workplace, union and employer office. Also, the CCMA and the public through strategies like problem solving and dispute minimisation, best practice screening, categorising and processing of disputes, best practice preparatory steps for CCMA processes. It would also focus on awareness raising and networking.

Discussion
Mr Durand ((NNP) pointed out that in his experiences, the unions played a major role in dispute resolution. Thus he concluded that a high number of unresolved cases means less union involvement or consultation. He asked the Director to comment on this.

On the issue of well-organised unions, Mr Molahlehi pointed out that the reality of the situation is that we now live in a free society where this freedom can be used positively or negatively. A case in point is where a law firm established a bogus employee representation programme whereas they were really more interested in attracting customers to their practice.

Mr Oliphant (ANC) commented that statistics do not show which disputes were union organised and which were not. On the issue of the video awareness campaign, he expressed concern that some remote areas with lack of facilities will be short-changed.

On the video issue, Mr Molahlehi expressed his agreement with the Member but also added that they have been looking at other more accessible measures, such as newspaper pull-outs and basic documents. These can be placed on post offices and tribal offices which can be accessed by even the most rural of environments.

Adv Madasa (ACDP) noted that he does not see a comparison of the cases referred to and disposed of by the CCMA. He would like to see statistics in this regard. Secondly, what was the Commission doing to reduce the referrals in the retail sector?

Mr Molahlehi said that they did not have the statistics with them but they would report back to the Committee on the matter. On the retail issue, he pointed out that a study commissioned by the CCMA found that this is a very big problem in the Eastern Cape and the Commission was still investigating ways of dealing with the issue.

Mr Clelland (DP) pointed out that radio has the biggest audience-capturing medium and the CCMA should be taking advantage of this. Have the 2001 amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Labour Relations Act, which were meant to streamline the CCMA and make it more effective, worked in practice?

Mr Molahlehi responded that, because of the short time which had passed since the amendments, he could not say for sure that workers rights would be dealt with more efficiently. However, this was the expectation and time would have to tell in this regard. On the use of radio, he pointed out that such programmes were previously run on the various radio stations but this ended a while back and they would be looking at reviving it again.

The Chairperson commented that regular meetings are necessary to discuss the issues more broadly.

The meeting was adjourned.

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