Unnecessary referrals hamstring labour court, says judge president
Johannesburg needs double the number of judges and courts it has as there are thousands of matters to address, says Basheer Waglay
Basheer Waglay, judge president of the Labour Appeal Court and the labour court of SA, says about 35% of matters referred to it should not be there at all and only serves to hamper the efficiency of the courts.
Johannesburg had the most shortages of judges and courts, Waglay said. “We need double the number of judges and courts that we have [in Johannesburg] today … there are thousands of matters [to attend to].”
He was speaking on Thursday during the annual labour conference of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), a dispute resolution institution, in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg.
Business Day reported in 2021 that the cash-strapped CCMA, which processes more than 200,000 cases a year involving unfair dismissals, wage disputes and retrenchments, has been hurt by crippling budget cuts from the Treasury, which are set to reach about R500m in the medium term.
The budget cuts allegedly forced the CCMA to outsource its dispute referral system to corner stores and internet cafes, with security guards and touts exploiting workers and charging up to R900 to make copies of and complete dispute referral forms.
Through its Imvuselelo — The Revival (the commission’s 2020/2021 to 2024/2025 strategy), the CCMA intends to respond to labour market needs, with the primary goal being that of achieving labour peace and stability.
Waglay said delays in the labour court were cause for concern and the CCMA needed to be capacitated as it played a crucial role. “Perhaps the time has come to reconsider the Labour Relations Act (LRA),” he said during his address titled “Has the labour court delivered on its mandate over the last 25 years?”
“The labour community in SA has, at its disposal, one of the most progressive labour regimes in the world [but] if the law is not understood by the constituency it’s meant to serve ... then we seriously need to address the issue of simplifying the laws,” the judge president said.
“We have made some progress over the last 25 years, but more needs to be done [to] address the high levels” of crime, corruption, unemployment and inequality.
“What good are labour laws if half of the nation is without work,” Waglay asked, adding that “we need to be bold and do things differently in ensuring people have jobs and decent wages to take care of themselves and their families.”
Waglay also spoke about geopolitical matters, saying Russia’s war in Ukraine and SA’s worsening socioeconomic issues, which have led to an increase in transport, electricity and food costs, “not only impact on our economy, but on our survival [as well]”.
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