TRAINING LABOR ARBITRATORS IN SOUTH AFRICA - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 55, No. 1
The author is a former president of the National Academy of Arbitrators, and has been training neutrals in South Africa since 1985. He is a recipient of the AAA’s Whitney North Seymour Medal and its Crystal Owl Distinguished Service Award, and teaches arbitration on the Harvard Trade Union program. He also serves on the AAA’s Labor Management Advisory Committee.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
The author is a former president of the National Academy of Arbitrators, and has been training neutrals in South Africa since 1985. He is a recipient of the AAA’s Whitney North Seymour Medal and its Crystal Service Distinguished Service Award, and teaches arbitration at the Harvard Trade Union Program. He also serves on the AAA’s Labor Management Advisory Committee.
The American system of grievance arbitration has provided a peaceful means of resolving workplace disputes in the unionized sector. South Africa has extended that approach by including the entire workforce—unionized or not. The introduction of that structure through the CCMA has created a need for the training of South African neutrals. The following article describes the recent visits of eight arbitrators from the National Academy of Arbitrators to South Africa where they conducted training programs designed to boost the fairness of the system.
For two decades, collective bargaining in South Africa has provided contractual procedures for arbitration of dismissal and other issues. In 1995, the new government leapfrogged past North American procedures by creating the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) to extend the right to arbitration to all employees whether or not unionized. For the past two years, a number of arbitrators—members of the National Academy of Arbitrators (NAA)—have volunteered their services to mentor the CCMA’s arbitrators. Their most recent trip in December 19991 was directed to training in decision writing.
Arbitration has long been the accepted procedure for resolving questions of unjust dismissal in the United States and Canada. These countries have been unique in using collective bargaining negotiations to develop a private dispute resolution system and the industrial jurisprudence that has flowed from this system.
In South Africa, following the 1979 Weihan Report and the right of black workers to join unions, early efforts at recognition agreements occurred in the early1980s. The disputes between workers and their employers often focused on challenged dismissals, which frequently led to job actions. In 1984, the Independent Mediation Service of South Africa (IMSSA) was established with the assistance of the Ford Foundation to provide a venue where disputing parties could turn for the peaceful resolution of challenged dismissal and other disputes through mediation and arbitration. IMSSA arbitrators followed the North American model for arbitration. Since 1985, when Richard Bloch began training IMSSA neutrals, they have also called upon Tom Colosi, Jim Power, Jim Oldham, and me to evolve an arbitration system based upon the standards of procedural and substantive fairness for challenging dismissals in the country’s unionized sector.
But, as in the U.S. and Canada, the protections of arbitration extended only to those working under negotiated agreements. Those beyond the ambit of collective bargaining in South Africa, as in North America, had no such rights or access to arbitration to challenge their dismissals.