Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration budget and strategic plan 2006/07

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Labour

13 March 2006
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Meeting report

LABOUR PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
14 March 2006
COMMISSION FOR CONCILIATION, MEDIATION AND ARBITRATION: BRIEFING

Chairperson:

Ms O Kasienyane (ANC)

Documents handed out:

Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration Briefing

 


SUMMARY
The Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) briefed the Committee on its plans and objectives for fulfilling its mandate: to promote social justice and economic growth by transforming relations in the labour market. The presentation identified key issues and challenges facing the CCMA, such as the current market conditions, lack of available resources, and a negative public perception of the Commission. The presenters outlined CCMAs promised service delivery initiatives. After outlining the Commission’s budget, the presenters discussed how workload aligned to available resources.

The Committee asked about vacancies within the CCMA. Members sought clarity on issues relating to the presented budget rollover. The Committee also sked about the accessibility and public awareness of the Commission. Questions of legal accessibility to the arbitration process were raised.

MINUTES

Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration briefing
The Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) briefed the Committee on its plans and objectives. The team presenting were Ms Narine Kahn (National Director), Ms Susan King (National Registrar), Mr Jeremy Daphne (National Senior Commissioner for Dispute Management), Mr Noah Ali (National Senior Commissioner for Institution Building), and Ms Pumla Mjoli (Chief Financial Officer)

Ms Kahn, National Director, provided an overview of CCMA’s strategic objectives and vision. The Commission aimed to promote social justice and economic growth by transforming relations in the labour market. She explained that a major challenge had been to deliver high quality, low cost, dispute resolution and prevention services. They faced the challenge of balancing a simple, quick and cheap dispute resolution process with ensuring a resolution with a fair outcome.

Ms Kahn discussed the steady increase in case referrals, and broke down the case load by sector and region. Major interventions had included SA Airways (SAA), Harmony Gold, as well as Pick and Pay. She highlighted CCMA’s target to resolve disputes in a preventative manner. This meant resolving problems and disputes at a workplace level.

Ms P Mjoli highlighted the budget and workload allocations to financial resources.

Discussion
Ms L Moss (ANC) expressed that the work of the Commission was vital, especially for the farm worker sector. Large numbers were still seasonal workers receiving little of protection and security. She also noted that the presentation had shown the structure of the Commission’s Governing Body, where there appeared to have been two vacancies. She asked what the nature of these positions had been. Had they been budgeted for?

Ms Khan explained that the vacancies were on the Commission’s Governing Body, which was not a full time unit. It had direct responsibly for the management of the organisation. The two vacancies had been budgeted for, and would be filled shortly.

Prince E Zulu (IFP) said that the presented budget had appeared to show a zero rollover. What skill had been applied to arrive at the presented figures? Many departments faced problems with rollovers and under-spending.

Ms Kahn said that CCMA was very proud of its financial record. The zero rollover had been due to very specific planning. Ms S King, National Registrar, added that the nature of the business of the Commission allowed for a very accurate prediction of resources required.

Mr Zulu asked whether the CCMA had any involvement in recent bouts of industrial action. Ms Kahn explained that in the case of national strikes, the CCMA could only offer mediation. Mr J Daphne, National Senior Commissioner for Dispute Management, added that the CCMA wished to develop their mediation capacity.

Mr N Ali, National Senior Commissioner for Institution Building, added that the CCMA could get involved in a dispute only when requested. CCMA wished that the Act had been amended to enable the Commission to intervene. Perhaps it could be amended to give the CCMA the statutory right, after a specified time, to call all parties to the table.

Mr M Mzondeki (ANC) noted that there was a perception that the performance of some of the CCMA Commissioners was poor. Ms Kahn had told the Committee that training received at CCMA was so good that Commissioners were being ‘head-hunted’ for employment. A balance needed to be struck.

The Chairperson asked if there had been any dismissals based on poor performance of Commissioners. Ms Kahn said some Commissioners had performed badly, and they had developed a very specific process for dealing with this, and a few had been dismissed.

Mr Mzondeki referred to the challenge highlighted in the presentation, of reducing referrals to CCMA. This directly related to public education. He questioned whether the initiatives for dispute management and prevention, designed at building public awareness, had really been accessible to the people who needed this information the most. For example, he presumed people would have to pay for the breakfasts and Labour Law seminars. What was the strategy for ensuring the people who really needed CCMA services, were aware of what the Commission provided?

Ms Kahn explained that the CCMA had been looking at how to deal with public education. Mr Daphne agreed that this issue was of importance. He said 75% of the Commission users had no trade union representation. In the face of increasingly complicated legal processes, CCMA could not claim to have reached the unorganised labour sector with any great success. They had piloted the use of Community Radio, with a free slot in each province. Another mechanism to create awareness had been their roadshows, in co-ordination with the Department of Labour, on Saturday mornings in communities. These sessions had been held in church halls or similar locations. All the roadshows had been very well attended. They had consisted of showing video’s and speakers talking about labour rights. This programme had definitely increased the Commission’s caseload.

Mr Anthony asked about the Commission’s policy on practising attorneys accessing the CCMA services. He gave the example of an employer going to the CCMA with their lawyers, although employees did not have this privilege. Ms Kahn explained that the law did not allow legal representation, although there were occasional exceptions. She agreed this issue needed to be looked at.

Mr Eugene van Zadem, National Senior Commissioner for Dispute Resolution, believed the Labour Relations Act had not helped the situation, as it only dealt with the actual conciliation and arbitration process. Any other matters would be open for legal representation.

Mr Ali explained that the issue of lawyers gaining access to CCMA process had been problematic for a number of years. Attorneys were able to register as employer’s organisations. The Commission had started to engage law societies about this, as they felt it was unethical. You could end up with a situation where an unrepresented worker could face a lawyer across the table.

Mr Anthony believed the key issue in South Africa was job creation. Business interests said the labour laws were not flexible enough to allow job creation. He asked the CCMA’s opinion on this. Mr van Zadem did not feel the Labour Relations Act was problematic, but was flexible, clear and simple. The problem was implementation.

The Chairperson questioned whether there were problems with cases being held up in the judicial process. Ms Kahn explained that the CCMA were bound by the rules and regulation made by the Labour Court. If a party was not happy with the outcome of arbitration, they had the right to take it to the Labour Court. Thus, instead of having minimum legal formalities, more and more legal formalities were creeping in. This was of concern to the Commission.

Mr Van Zadem believed the Labour Court had largely been helpful. However problems had arisen because the Court had a very limited number of permanent staffmembers. Most members did not stay for longer than a month. This prolonged the process for the CCMA. The Chairperson felt that this area would require more discussion.
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Mr O Mogale (ANC) asked if the CCMA had adequate Sign Language interpreters. Ms Kahn said they had already trained signers on the Help Desks.

Mr S Rasmeni (ANC) asked if the Commission had a view on the serious problem of labour brokering. Had the caseloads of the CCMA increased due to the growth of labour broker use? His experience had been that the gap between labour and employers was growing further apart due to this phenomenon.

Mr Van Zadem said that labour broking had been a problem, as the Commission only had jurisdiction to interpret the laws.

Ms T Lashivha (ANC) noted that the presentation had indicated that in 15% of all arbitrations, one of either party did not arrive. What had the CCMA done to make sure they limited such a waste of resources?

Ms Kahn said that addressing the non-attendance issue was a priority. Mr Van Zadem felt that no finances or resources were wasted on non-attendance.

Ms Lashivha asked if the Commission had a policy to manage the impact of HIV and AIDS in the workplace. Ms Kahn said the CCMA had a policy document that was currently before the Commission’s Governing Body that dealt with the issue of HIV/AIDS. It would hopefully be finalised shortly.

The meeting was adjourned.

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