Johan Botes and Mark Meyerowitz – Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr
Among other aims, the Labour Relations Amendment Bill, 2012 (LRAB) proposes streamlining the procedure to be followed when reviewing CCMA arbitration awards. It further discourages litigants from instituting review applications as a tactical ploy to frustrate or delay compliance with the award.
The amended s145(5) of the Labour Relations Act, No 66 of 1995 (LRA) will provide that a person who institutes a review application must arrange for the matter to be heard by the Labour Court within six months of commencing proceedings. However, the Court has been given the power to condone a failure to comply with this provision on good cause shown.
In terms of a new s145(6) of the LRA, judges will be required to hand down judgment in review applications "as soon as reasonably possible". This provision reiterates the need for the speedy resolution of review applications. One of the original aims of the current LRA has been the speedy resolution of labour disputes. Sixteen years after its promulgation this aim has sadly not been realised. While there are numerous reasons for the delays in finalising labour disputes, any positive steps to reduce litigation time should be welcomed.
If review applications are to be finalised speedily, litigants will have to adhere to the timelines provided for pleadings. We expect that, given the renewed imperative to quickly dispose of matters, the court will be less inclined to grant condonation for failure to comply with these timelines. This should especially assist employers who find themselves at the mercy of slow ex-employees who fail to timeously review arbitration awards handed down against them.
Employers should, however, similarly take care in managing their own review applications. They should take all necessary steps to progress the matter to avoid censure for delays in the proceedings. Employers who institute review proceedings, and then unnecessarily delay the matter, will face an increased risk of having the review application dismissed.