CCMA slams claims that cases have been struck off roll
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Johannesburg - The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) had dismissed reports that cases have been struck off the roll and that the CCMA is not coping with its caseload during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The whole world was confronted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which had seen many countries across the world, including South Africa, implement national lockdowns in a bid to contain the virus, the CCMA said in a statement on Saturday.
In response, the CCMA had issued a directive implementing measures to contribute to national and international efforts to contain Covid–19 and minimise its further spread, as directed by the health authorities. Actions taken by the High Court, Labour Court, and the Labour Appeal Court were also taken into account.
The issued directive suspended all points of referral requiring face-to-face interaction. It also prohibited walk-ins into any of the CCMA offices, either to make enquiries and/or serving/delivering any processes or documents. It also suspended all discretionary functions, such as training and conferences. Alternative means of non-contact referral, such as email or fax,were encouraged.
Covid-19 level four regulations allowed a number of industries and sectors to gradually resume operations with strict restrictions. "The CCMA is conscious of the fact that the lockdown has had a negative impact on [the] economy, placing many workers and businesses in distress. The gradual return of declared industries and sectors therefore means that some labour activity will resume. By implication, this means that some referrals to the CCMA for varying reasons may be necessary.
"The CCMA has noted, with great regret, recent reports of some media houses and key labour market players, that cases have been struck off the roll and that the CCMA is not coping with its caseload. It is put on record that there is absolutely no truth in the expressed sentiments, that no such decision was taken by the CCMA executive committee or the governing body to dismiss referred or scheduled matters," the commission said.
Matters initially scheduled for the week of May 4 – 8 May had to be rescheduled due to the level four regulations not declaring the CCMA an essential or related service, and which did not make clear provision for re–opening the CCMA and its services. The regulations also did not provide for users or stakeholders to access CCMA offices. As such, as a law abiding and responsible institution, the CCMA could not open its premises and resume full–scale operations without a clear directive to do so.
Consultations were currently being conducted and guidance sought from the relevant authorities in this regard. Guidance was also taken from the environment in which the CCMA was operating in, such as sentiments, instructions and plans of the departments of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, employment and labour, basic and higher educations, and transport, among others.
Once a clear mandate was established and clarity provided as to whether the functions of the CCMA fell within the ambit of essential services or services supporting essential services, a clear directive would be issued to staff, users, and stakeholders.
The CCMA would continue to accept referrals through non-contact methods such as email or fax. All matters referred and scheduled (or re–scheduled) before and during the lockdown, would be prioritised. Pre-conciliations would continue by means of telephone. Conciliations would continue to be conducted telephonically, if agreed to by the parties and the CCMA.
In terms of discretionary functions and other identified matters of interest, such as large-scale dismissals (S189A) and inquiry by arbitrator processes (S188A) processes, among others, the CCMA may approve, subject to written agreement by parties, that these matters be heard at alternative venues, other than CCMA venues, subject to strict health and safety conditions being satisfied.
"While the CCMA remains committed to expeditious service delivery and social justice, such cannot be delivered at the expense of the health and life of employees, users, and stakeholders. The Covid-19 pandemic challenges the CCMA to review its service delivery model, including digitalisation of referral forms, conducting web–based hearings, conducting hearings at employers’/union offices and state–owned offices, as well as the establishment and dispatching of rapid response teams and specialist panels, among others," the commission said.
"The CCMA appeals for all social partners to continue to observe and abide by all employment laws, requesting for humanity, relationship building, and collaborative problem solving during this difficult time. The CCMA also appeals to all workers across all essential services industries and services supporting essential services to refrain from any unprotected industrial action during the period of the lockdown."