The CCMA has been on the receiving end of some sharp criticism of late, which it has predictably elected to respond to defensively with a degree of self-righteous indignation.
Let me say up front, the very role of the CCMA in workplace dispute resolution places it in the invidious position of invariably being unpopular with one, or another party, in a dispute. This more especially applies to arbitration hearings, which always produce a loser.
So the CCMA is, at times, subject to unfair, one-eyed and subjective criticism.
I have appeared as a representative of parties at the CCMA since its inception almost twenty years ago, and have done so in just about every CCMA branch and satellite office around the country. That qualifies me to chip in on this debate.
There are, without a shadow of doubt, many highly qualified, competent and experienced CCMA Commissioners, who are committed to objectively dispensing justice in an even-handed manner. What’s more, they do so displaying the requite respect to parties, notwithstanding the frequent tension which is evident in most disputes they conciliate or arbitrate.
That’s not true of all Commissioners. Whilst, in my view, the skill and competence levels of Commissioners are generally high or acceptable, there is a sprinkling of belligerent and ill-mannered Commissioners who know who they are, as do frequent users.
Has the CCMA responded to the recent criticism well? Nope.
To begin with, it is highly unlikely that the CCMA leadership would have responded the way it did, had the criticism emanated from organized labour.
I also don’t buy the apparent responses, which seek to deflect blame for ineffective labour dispute resolution on employers and labour; the blame mongering doesn’t stop there either.
The CCMA Director also appears to be lamenting the “moving on” of the founding fathers of the current employment law regime, into business and politics. It reminds me of the dead Month Python parrot which was apparently “pining for the fjords”.
Is it too much to expect of the CCMA that it maturely respond to criticism, without adopting a defensive stance, which simultaneously seeks to blame monger?
Surely a more measured, constructive and conciliatory response would have been more prudent? Indeed, perhaps the response which would probably have evolved had it emanated from a trade union and not an employer-linked representative?
I think that the CCMA leadership has, with its antagonistic response to recent criticism, shown the very subjective petulance, which it criticizes, CCMA users of on a daily basis. What happened to the ‘conciliation’ in CCMA?
Yes, the CCMA may well be held up as an enviable model of workplace dispute from time to time in other jurisdictions. However, before the CCMA leadership seeks to harness the plaudits for this, recognition should first and foremost be given to the core of competent CCMA Commissioners, not the defensive top floor bureaucrats.
The CCMA leadership has shot itself in the foot on this one. The proverbial “own goal”.
Follow Tony on Twitter at @tony_healy