Contempt of the CCMA normally relates to conduct either during or after proceedings, for instance, where a party refuses to comply with an award which requires an act to be performed.
Section 142(8) regulates what constitutes contempt during CCMA proceedings and includes, inter alia:
- Failure of a witness who has been issued a subpoena to appear at the time and place stipulated therein;
- A witness who has been subpoenaed leaves the proceedings and fails to remain in attendance until excused by the commissioner;
- Refusal to take an oath or affirmation;
- Refusal to answer a question fully to such witness’ knowledge or belief;
- Hindering a commissioner performing his functions in terms of the LRA;
- Wilfully interrupts a conciliation or arbitration or, in some or other manner;
- Insulting, disparaging or belittling conduct towards a commissioner.
A commissioner may issue a punitive award in relation to such conduct or may issue a contempt ruling. Commissioners may also refer this finding with the record of the proceedings to the Labour Court for a decision which may include a sanction being issued against such a person, fine, or in extreme cases imprisonment. Practitioners may be reported to the Law Society.
Commissioners should control processes in such a way that contemptuous behaviour is avoided. Once the likelihood of contempt arises, the commissioner should not allow this situation to escalate, and the attention of the party should be drawn to section 142. In most cases, commissioners will order a brief adjournment to allow a party to calm down and to control the situation.
It is advisable that all CCMA users treat the Commission and its Commissioners with respect. It will not further the case of either party to become embattled in a dispute with the presiding officer. Furthermore, should you be utilising witnesses, those witnesses should be prepared on how to conduct themselves best when giving evidence.
Article by: Janeske Greeff
Dispute Resolution Official – Cape Town