On 18 May 2020, the CCMA commenced hearing disputes after being prevented from doing so for a period of longer than 2 months. It was stated in a CCMA directive, dated 8 May 2020, that the manner in which processes should be conducted, would be amended to accommodate the regulations in terms of the Disaster Management Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
It has come to our attention that CCMA commissioners are contacting our members, who are currently involved to existing CCMA disputes, advising them that their matters will be heard on a particular date and that they must ensure their presence at the CCMA offices. In all instances where this has occurred, the date did not comply with the minimum notice periods as contained in the CCMA rules.
It is our opinion that this is unlawful conduct for at least the following 2 reasons:
Firstly, the CCMA directive expressly states that prior to scheduling arbitration hearings, the parties must be directed to hold a pre-arbitration conference to reach consensus on certain issues. The CCMA appears to be ignoring the mandatory requirement it has imposed on itself, ensuring that parties hold a pre-arbitration conference; and
Secondly, as stated above, the dates being provided by the CCMA do not comply with the minimum notice period of 21 days for arbitrations as contained in the CCMA rules. The directive expressly stated that shorted periods of notice would have to be agreed between the parties.
Upon enquiry with the CCMA about its abovementioned practice, we were advised that the dates provided were merely proposed dates for the arbitration, and parties could accept or reject the proposal. It would, however, appear that this is not being communicated in such a manner with our members.
We urge our members, that should you receive a telephonic call or email correspondence from the CCMA, that you refer the commissioner or forward the email to our offices in order for us to make the necessary arrangements on your behalf. At CEO, we will ensure that the arbitration proceeds in a form and manner that is most advantageous to our member.