The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration
(CCMA) and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in labour
relations in South Africa: an appraisal of efficacy and challenges
Lecturer Mashele RAPATSA1
The Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 provides tha t Alternative Dispute Resolution
(ADR) is pr edicated on pro viding less complex statutory p rocesses within which la bour
disputes may be expeditiously and cost effectively r esolved. Has or is this fundamental
objective being realised? This article pr offers a cr itical disposition of the realities besieging
South Africa’s prime institution of labour dispute resolution, the Commission for
Conciliation, Mediatio n and Arbitration (CCMA), whose establishment brought about high
expectations in terms of normalising systems of la bour dispute r esolution, and ushering in
employee-friendly employment relations. It has been observed tha t a lthough the CCMA
provides simplified labour dispute processes, majority of workers still struggle to achieve a
practica l realisa tion of the intended ADR benefits, largely owing to low liter acy levels and
the skewed barga ining power which is still slanted towards employers. Employers still wields
the determining power at both conciliation and arbitr ation stages, and are better placed to
manipulate a concilia tion outcome due to technical knowledge of labour laws and the power
of r ecord keeping, against employees, who often ar e the disadvantaged proleta riat with
limited or no skills or tra ining in labour rela tions. Fur ther, th e ar bitration process still
manifests some elements of adversar ialism, which favours the r esources-rich employers.
Keywords: labour disputes resolution, labour r ights, conciliation, ar bitration, labour
JEL Classification: J52, K31
It is difficult to undertake a precise assessment of the efficacy of the
Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA),2 particularly
because labour relations, and labour disputes arising therein, are dynamic in nature.
It is also because of the socio-economic complexities facing workers in the modern
political economy and the institutional challenges in general, all of which to a large
extent impact on the wellbeing of workers, labour peace and economic development.
Further, not all labour disputes are referred to the CCMA, often because employees
lack requisite knowledge on what ought to be referred to the CCMA and how to
challenge employers. It should be noted that labour relations is fundamentally
1 Mashele Rapatsa - Faculty of Management and Law, University of Limpopo, South Africa, LLB (UL)
LLM (UCT), PhD candidate (University of Groningen, Netherlands), firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 Anton Roskam, An Exploratory Look into Labour Market Regulation, “Development Policy Research
Unit” (2007) at p. 38.