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Simunye Workers' Forum direct action at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA)

Publication: SWF
Author: Press Writer

The SWF has set up a stall outside the Benoni branch of the CCMA. The SWF intends to spend a week outside every CCMA office in Gauteng to support workers who are not being adequately assisted by the CCMA and sometimes even abused by the CCMA.

We demand that we be allowed to represent any worker who requests our support in a CCMA hearing. We have been trained to represent workers in conciliation and arbitration and we do this for free and will continue never to charge any fee for this.

We have been forced to make this demand. We insist upon this because the CCMA has ceased to be a neutral, dispute resolution forum. Instead, it has become aggressively anti-worker.

In about 70% of all cases, the CCMA refuses to allow workers to be represented in CCMA hearings. It insists that only workers who are members of registered trade unions can be represented. This leaves workers who are not unionized without any representation. Not all workers can join unions - unions often refuse to sign up sectors of workers, especially casual workers, as union members. This means that a casual worker who perhaps earns less than R3000 per month, would have to fork out over R20 000 for a private lawyer if they wanted to have a chance of winning a CCMA case, which is simply impossible.

Many of these workers who are being denied their right to representation are among the most exploited, like farm workers, domestic workers, labour broker workers, or contract workers. They are not unionised and depend only on the CCMA to defend their rights.

When these workers are alone in the CCMA hearing with only a commissioner, translator and the employer and employer’s attorneys, the CCMA commissioners frequently bully the workers. They put pressure on workers to drop winning cases. Case managers are rude to workers.

The CCMA also incentivises its commissioners to ‘settle’ as many disputes as possible, especially at conciliation. We have found that commissioners sometimes bully workers into signing settlements at conciliation, instead of taking their cases further to arbitration. This can mean that a worker who has been unfairly dismissed after working for one company for 15 years and who has a good chance of winning their case, will instead be bullied by CCMA commissioners or even translators into accepting a three-month payout instead of reinstatement.

CCMA commissioners are also supposed to assist workers with resolving disputes. Instead they behave like judges, which is not their role. They allow employers’ expensive attorneys to run the hearings and create enormous delays, which disadvantages the workers. Unlike the CCMA of the 90’s, when it was first established, many of the CCMA’s commissioners today have no experience in trade unions, no understanding of how to resolve labour disputes and hail from an irrelevant commercial lawyer or professional background.

The CCMA is also reliant on part-time commissioners. Many of these part-time commissioners are attorneys who get their outside work from employers, and seem reluctant to rule against the employers at the CCMA.

Cases are delayed for years, meaning that workers are denied justice. One of our cases, against Heineken, took six years to be finalized in the CCMA.

The Simunye Workers’ Forum therefore demands:

  1. An increase in the budget of the CCMA to meet its growing caseload.
  2. The immediate appointment of more full-time commissioners, and for these commissioners to be experienced in labour matters and respectful to workers – no puppets of the bosses.
  3. A complete ban on part-time commissioners acting for employers during the period of the transition towards the employment of more full-time commissioners.
  4. The creation of a mechanism allowing workers and communities to report corrupt commissioners, anti-worker commissioners and hold disrespectful staff accountable.
  5. Scrapping Rule 25 and giving all workers the right to representation at the CCMA, regardless of whether they are members of registered trade unions or not.
  6. A restructured Department of Employment and Labour that includes an increased budget, increased inspectorate that can assume enforcement functions currently and inappropriately entrusted to the CCMA, dismissal of staff responsible for corruption in the UIF and Compensation Fund, and for staff who are nothing more than outriders for employer interests, including directors and chief directors, to be dismissed.

The Simunye Workers Forum is disgusted that the CCMA does not want to use its strong powers to make labour broker workers permanent and give them the same wages, hours and conditions as other permanent workers, for example. Instead, it wants workers to refer more disputes, which means they experience long delays in resolving their cases. The Simunye Workers’ Forum will continue this direct action until our demands are met. [ends]

For interviews, please contact:
Tshepo Motaung - SWF activist - 061 4586 444:
Irene Sibanyoni - SWF activist - 083 9530 955:
Matsoanelo Motomotomo - SWF activist - 071 9146196:
Sydney Moshoaliba - CWAO Education officer - 062 166 0997 or 072 509 3587