Changes to legislation led to a far greater increase in the case load of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) than the dispute resolution body had anticipated.
And the numbers are only expected to increase as the new laws coincide with an increasing number of retrenchments, led mainly by automation and artificial intelligence, particularly in the construction, mining and metals industry.
While tabling the annual report for the year to March 31 on Monday, CCMA director Cameron Sello Morajane told journalists that the new jurisdiction – especially the introduction of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) bill and amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), both of which came into effect in January 2019 – had increased the number of referrals made to the CCMA.
Prior to this, the mandate of the CCMA had been expanded to deal with employment equity matters, including issues of harassment, sexual harassment and violence, which also added to its case load.
In the 12 months to the end of March 2019, a total of 193 732 cases were referred to the CCMA compared with 186 902 the previous financial year.
Morajane says the case load is projected to increase by a further 25% in the current financial year.
He adds that between January and March 31, the CCMA received 4 237 matters relating to the new jurisdiction of the BCEA alone. These accounted for 80% of the referrals in the three-month period, while the introduction of the NMW accounted for 2%.
“So, as matters stand, we seem to be quite condemned in [terms of] case load increase due to legislative reforms, which are necessary.”
Morajane also shed a light on the number of retrenchment-related cases the commission is dealing with, saying it has been “really kept busy by the large-scale dismissals”.
The CCMA dealt with 38 588 potential retrenchments through its discretionary job-saving strategy – and managed to save 15 787 (41%) of those jobs. Morajane says it “exceeded its targets”.
“One job saved is important, but we took it to 15 000 – on a discretionary function,” says Morajane. “We think it’s a remarkable achievement.”
South Africa’s unemployment rate currently sits at just under 30%, with various sectors, including banking and mining, announcing massive job losses.
The highest number of job losses was recorded in the building and construction sector, accounting for over 3 500 retrenchments, followed by mining at 3 260. The metal industry accounted for the third-largest lay-off, with 1 740 jobs lost.
Morajane cautions that these numbers only account for the job losses that were referred to the CCMA, and do not reflect the full picture.
“There are many of those that are not large scale, happening below the radar, and still contributing to the losses which then subsequently contribute to the 29% unemployment rate,” he says.
More to come
“Do we see more [retrenchments] happening? Absolutely,” says Morajane.
He says this has also been announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa. “He said prepare yourself for a job-loss bloodbath”.
“We are seeing that, based on the referrals we are getting,” he says. “And business has also announced that we are going to continue with retrenchments.”
Morajane believes the country is in this current state “because of the fourth industrial revolution”.
Just last month the Labour Court granted Business Unity SA an urgent interdict to stop trade union federation Cosatu and its affiliate banking union Sasbo from proceeding with a national strike – a response to the large-scale retrenchments in the sector underpinned by increased automation and digitisation – that would have brought the banking sector to a standstill.