Workplace mediation offers significant benefits to employers and employees. It has the potential to facilitate fast, innovative, mutually beneficial, solutions to employment disputes.
When a dispute is mediated soon after it arises the chances of a satisfactory resolution are optimised because the parties’ positions are usually still fluid and their differences have not had a chance to fester and deepen.
Of course, the Labour Relations Act provides for a speedy process of dispute resolution, which includes a conciliation phase, through the CCMA and the Bargaining Councils in the various sectors. However, these processes only kick in after the internal disciplinary process has run its course or the grievance has been lodged and there has been no satisfactory outcome. Workplace mediation is aimed at assisting parties to resolve workplace problems at an even earlier stage, prior to disciplinary action being taken or grievances being lodged.
The CCMA is leading the way in this area – as part of its strategic imperative to advance good practice at work and to transform workplace relations. It is running a six month pilot project in the Cape Fruit Industry (March 2016-August 2016) to explore the potential in this area.
At the 29th Annual Labour Law Conference (ALLC), taking place for the first time at Emperors Palace from 24 to 25 August 2016, the CCMA will address the topic of workplace mediation, as well as other strategies to encourage job retention and workplace harmony in these difficult economic times.
Advocate Thuli Madonsela will tackle the topic of job creation and corruption in a plenary session. Prof Paul Benjamin and Mr Thobile Lambate, the Director-General of the Department of Labour, will speak on the impact of the 2014 amendments to the Labour Relations Act on job creation. Of course, sometimes job retention is simply not possible – and there will be a panel presentation on developments in the field of retrenchment law as well.
Nicci Whitear-Nel (BA LLB) is the Senior Lecturer at School of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal.