n African Journal on Conflict Resolution - An analysis of the problems of the labour dispute resolution system in South Africa

Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1562-6997


The labour dispute resolution system is currently under strain, as is evident from numerous reports about the problems experienced by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). Even though the Labour Relations Act 66/95 (LRA) has brought statutory dispute resolution within reach of the ordinary worker, it might actually have compounded the problems relating to dispute resolution in the country. The high rate of individual unfair dismissal cases referred to the CCMA is an indication that the adversarialism that used to be found in the collective relationship has now manifested itself in the individual relationship.

This article focuses on the findings and recommendations of a study that was done to explore the perceptions of commissioners of the CCMA regarding the capacity of parties to effectively deal with labour conflict and disputes within the legal framework provided by the LRA. This includes an investigation into the reasons for the high referral rate of unfair dismissal cases to the CCMA and recommendations made by the commissioners on how to deal with the problems.
It was found that the LRA created a sophisticated system of dispute resolution in which most of the role players are not capacitated to operate. The guidelines in Schedule 8 of the LRA have become the norm for dealing with conflict within an enterprise, creating complex and technical processes for dealing with disputes. However, most of the employers and individual employees do not have the knowledge and skills to operate effectively in the system. This has led to a new type of adversarialism in the individual employment relationship, which is based on rights, rules and power. The very technical nature of the internal conflict resolution mechanisms, the incapacity of the parties and the adversarial nature of the labour relationship have resulted in the high referral rate and consequent problems that the CCMA is experiencing. Changes to the LRA regarding the pre-dismissal arbitration process and the conciliation-arbitration (con-arb) process could be seen as treating only the symptoms and not the causes of workplace conflict and an unhealthy labour dispute resolution system.

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