The CCMA: The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration

Dispute resolution in the workplace is never pleasant nor is it easy to resolve.  With two opposing parties both strong in their convictions it is difficult to find an unbiased resolution to the matter. While labour regulations have been set in place according to the South African Labour Relations Act (LRA), who do you go to when looking for unbiased conciliation and arbitration regarding employment matters.


In the past employees and employers would approach the Industrial Court with work related disputes. While the Industrial Court was seen as a body to assist with such adversities, many considered this to be an oppressive solution to labour related issues. The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) was independently implemented to replace the Industrial Court. The CCMA now offers an unbiased approach to labour disputes as well as promotes industrial concord and social justice. Many employees and employers are particularly intimidated by the CCMA; however this is purely as a result of lack of knowledge. The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration has in fact been created to promote fair judgement and mediation between opposing parties in a working environment. Think of the CCMA as our very own employee employer policeman; to protect and to serve workers and employers by encouraging amicable conflict resolution and sound dispute appeasement.


The CCMA or Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration is defined as being an independent body responsible for the mediation, conciliation and arbitration of conflict between the employer and the employee. While explained in particularly advanced English, the CCMA is in fact a very simple organisation performing clear cut tasks. Conciliation, mediation and arbitration all revolve a central point; the process of resolving labour disputes.



Conciliation refers to working with two opposing parties (usually industrially related), with the intention of reaching a mutual settlement to a dispute.


Mediation refers to the intervention of a 3rd party to resolve industrial disputes amicably.



Arbitration is the process of dispute resolution between two opposing parties by referring each to a 3rd party agreed upon.


Who is the CCMA?

The CCMA operations nationally throughout South Africa and maintains functional offices in each province. The governing body is comprised of a chairperson and nine other members who are nominated by NEDLAC (National Economic Development and Labour Council). The nine members elected by NEDLAC comprise of three state representatives, three representatives from organised labour and the final three representatives from organised businesses. With such a diverse group of members, it is clear that the CCMA an unbiased body promoting industrial/labour co-operation and justice within the workplace.


The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration is to assist with the conciliation-arbitration (con-arb) of workplace disputes, facilitate workplace forums, inform and educate employers and employees alike as well as distribute general labour statistics. They may also make themselves available to supervise ballots or nominations for unions and other employer organisations.


The Conciliation Process

The conciliation process is as such:

  • Once the dispute has been raised with the commission, a commissioner is appointed to the case and is to attempt to resolve the dispute within 30 days here after.
  • The commissioner is to put together a conciliation strategy defining ways he or she plans on resolving the specific dispute. This strategy is to include mediating, gathering information and a recommended solution.
  • Within 30 days or as per the agreed upon completion term, the commissioner will need to provide a certificate detailing the outcome of the dispute.


The CCMA was implemented with the intention of providing unbiased solutions to disputes and work related issues that neither party involved are able to resolve internally. As the CCMA is regulated by South Africa's Labour Relations Act, it is also fair to say that the commission is available to support both employees and employers rights alike. Any employee can make use of the commission and can be sure by doing so they are ensuring the safety and protection of both their own rights as well as their employers.