CCMA has been able to maintain peace
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by Michael Bagraim
Over the many years in my writing for Independent News I’ve always heaped praise on the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
Since the inception of the CCMA as an adjudication and conciliation body, the staff and Commissioners always strived to serve the public in an incredibly fair and efficient manner.
Initially the business community were suspicious and worried the rights of employers would not be respected.
If one follows the statistics over the years it has become absolutely clear that not only has the CCMA managed to solve many thousands of cases but it kept labour peace against all odds.
Employment in South Africa has become a major challenge and our system has not encouraged the business community to create employment.
Many employees and jobless people have even shown willingness to surrender their hard won rights in order to secure employment. Despite this, the CCMA has protected employment rights and at the same time ensured employers were not bullied by unions or been held to ransom by recalcitrant staff.
The scales of justice have been heroically held aloft by hundreds of commissioners of the CCMA country wide.
Without these commissioners working around the clock, sometimes seven days a week, labour peace would have been very fragile.
The structure of the current CCMA allows the management to engage with part time commissioners who make up over 60% of the commissioner base. These part time commissioners are highly trained experts in our labour law.
They serve the employed public (both employees and employers) valiantly. I know this as I have been a regular user of the CCMA since it’s very first day. I hopefully will continue serving both employees and employers at the CCMA in the years to come.
I have personally been to do arbitrations at the CCMA in venues across the country.
The service I have received from Polokwane to George has always been courteous, efficient, well structured and fair. The part time commissioners treat the public with both respect and empathy.
I must add that this experience shows a vastly different attitude to almost every other government department I’ve been involved in.
In particular, the other entities under the umbrella of the Department of Employment and Labour don’t evidence the same traits. Part time commissioners sometimes rule against me and always keep me in check.
Their fair and even handed approach to everyone has very clearly given them the deserved accolades that have been heaped upon them and their employer, the CCMA. The part time commissioners are the back bone of the arbitration structure if the conciliations (mediations) don’t produce agreed solutions. I am led to believe that over 70% of these arbitrations are serviced by the part time commissioners.
Most of these part time commissioners earn 100% of their income from the CCMA and rely on this income to survive. Aside from that, the employees of South Africa rely entirely on these commissioners to ensure that justice is fairly done, efficiently done and enforced.
Likewise employers rely on these part time commissioners to ensure that no employee takes the law into his or her own hands but relies entirely on the CCMA to correct any wrong doing and enforce the law.
It is an extremely unfortunate turn of events that the budget for the CCMA has been radically cut thereby enforcing the national commissioner to inform all the part time commissioners that he will not be able to give them any work during December and January.
Also, the commission might have to cancel all its mediations and other necessary functions such as training and seminars.
The unfortunate budget cuts are going to cut extremely deep into a good functioning government body and probably destroy all the hard work that has gone into building up the CCMA and its reputation over the past 20 years.
I echo the trade union movement when I publicly implore the Minister of Employment and Labour to rethink these budget cuts and restore the one institution within his Department that is actually working.
* Michael Bagraim is the DA's deputy spokesperson for Employment and Labour, and a labour lawyer.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
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