Summary of the Stages of an Arbitration Hearing
During the introduction, the commissioner will start recording the process, stating the case details and asking the parties to state their names and positions (for example, manager/employee). The commissioner will deal with what language will be used and will explain the procedure that will be followed. The commissioner will describe the process of arbitration and explain the parties’ rights. The commissioner may ask the parties whether they would like to go back into conciliation mode to try to resolve the matter before proceeding with arbitration.
2. Preliminary issues
Before proceeding with the arbitration, the commissioner must ensure that the CCMA has the power or authority to hear the matter (jurisdiction). Furthermore, if a party wants to have legal representation, the application must be made at this stage (if this has not already occurred in writing).
3. Outline and narrowing of issues in dispute
The commissioner may ask the parties to explain what the dispute is about. This is usually done in the form of opening statements where both parties explain why they see the dismissal as being fair or unfair. The commissioner may also ask specific questions to obtain background information such as the date of employment, the date of dismissal and the reason for dismissal. The commissioner will then try to determine which issues are not in dispute (common cause) and which issues are in dispute. Evidence is only needed on issues that are in dispute.
4. Hearing of evidence
The parties then present their case. They may call witnesses and submit relevant documents. After each witness has testified, the other party can cross-examine that witness. Cross-examination may be used to get additional information from the witness, to dispute anything that the other side does not agree with and to put a version to the witness so that s/he has an opportunity to respond to it. After that, the party that called the witness may re-examine the witness (based only on the questions that witness faced during cross-examination).
5. Concluding arguments
During this last phase of the hearing, the parties are invited to argue their case. They may summarise the evidence that was presented on which they would like to rely; argue why a certain version should be accepted or not; refer to case law; and explain what outcome they seek.
6. Arbitration award
The arbitration award, which is issued within fourteen (14) days after the hearing, is the final binding outcome of the matter.